Staten Island was first inhabited by hundreds of Native Americans thousands of years ago, long before Europeans arrived. The first visitor from the west was an Italian, and later, in 1609, Englishman Henry Hudson was sent by the Dutch to explore the island. The island was given the name “Staten Generaal” (the collective name of the first and second Houses of the Dutch parliament) in homage to this institution. Due to the various conflicts with the native population, it took a while for Europeans to settle on the island. Finally, an “Old Town” was founded and since then the population has gradually grown to 500,000 inhabitants. Until 1975, Staten Island was named after the county it occupies, Richmond. That year the city council decided to change the name to the original with which the Dutch called it when they colonized it.
More colonial-era buildings remain on Staten Island than anywhere else in New York. One of the most amazing places on Staten Island is Historic Richmond Town, a restored country town where you can see houses dating back to the 17th century. Another place worth noting is Fort Wadsworth, the defensive fort that, since its construction by the Dutch in the 17th century, has served to protect New York from enemy ship incursions.
You can get to the island by way of the [free] Staten Island Ferry. The ferry leaves twice an hour from the tip of Manhattan and passes the Statue of Liberty, offering beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline. This boat tour is worth doing at least once. Many people prefer to take the boat back to Manhattan right after crossing. However, there are several activities you can do near the harbor terminal, so you can also take the boat back later and take the opportunity to explore a few things on Staten Island first. Staten Island is also home to New York’s only outlet, Empire Outlets, so you can combine a boat tour of the bay with an afternoon of shopping. In fact, the Staten Island Ferry Pier is right next to Empire Outlets, so it’s just a short walk away.
The Verrazzano-Narrows suspension bridge is 1,298 meters long and connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. It is the longest suspension bridge in the United States. Its name comes from the Italian explorer named Giovanni da Verrazano, the first European to sail the Hudson. It has some of the biggest traffic incursions in the country, along with various car accidents that happen daily. Anyone who has run the New York City Marathon will have fond memories of this bridge. The marathon starts in Staten Island and the first kilometers of the route are over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. The bridge is not accessible to cyclists or pedestrians during the rest of the year.
Staten Island in whole, is just as much a part of New York City as the remaining four boroughs. Though suburban in nature, it’s historical values and promising future may just make it key to New York’s everlasting success.