NY1’s week-long coverage of major Staten Island stories in the last two decades continues with a look at the Staten Island Homeport, which has had its share of stops and starts over the years but now is finally moving ahead towards redevelopment. Borough reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
The buildings have been knocked down, and now the Staten Island Homeport looks like a shell of its former self. The site at Stapleton is finally being readied for a long-awaited redevelopment plan, to turn the sprawling 36-acre waterfront space into a housing and commercial community aimed at young professionals.
“Now is the time to start believing. There is a lot of momentum behind development in Staten Island, all over the island, but at Homeport we’re confident that this project is moving forward,” said Seth Pinsky of the Economic Development Corporation.
For two short years, the Staten Island Homeport was home to the United States Navy. That all ended in 1994, when the Navy set sail as part of a nationwide defense downsizing effort.
In the 18 years that have passed, the city flirted with a number of ideas for the site, including a motor racetrack and a port for gambling ships.
Arnie’s Bagelicious moved in in 1995 but closed three years later, when actor Danny Aiello suggested the site for a film and TV studio. That plan fell apart as well.
“I’m a little surprised that at this juncture when we’re moving at a pretty good clip why the brakes are being put on,” said then-Congressman Vito Fossella in 2002.
The brakes stayed on until 2009, when the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced a partnership with Ironstate Development to build 900 units of housing in phases, along with 35,000-square-feet of retail space ideally featuring mom-and-pop shops.
“We’re really pushing hard to get this thing done,” David Barry of Ironstate Development said in January.
In the next several months, the city will begin work on the portion of the site it has pledged to develop. There will be a groundbreaking on infrastructure improvements like roads and a waterfront esplanade:
“I said Staten Island will be measured by that important strip of land from Borough Hall to the [Verrazano-Narrows] Bridge. Facing that waterfront, that will define who we are and what we’re all about at some point in the future,” said former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari.
It looks like that future is almost here, as tenants could move in as soon as 2013.