Know what I’m thinking? Maybe it’s not so bad being “The Forgotten Borough.”
No matter how hard we try, on the national stage, we too often look like backwater buffoons.
No matter how we rally each other after tragedies like Sept. 11 or Sandy. No matter how compassionate are our service clubs like the Rotaries, or our faith leaders like Rev. Terry Troia. No matter how much good the Siller Family and Tunnel To Towers do across our country. Just about every time we make news off Staten Island, we manage to — dare I say it? — make an ass of ourselves.
Case in Point: For decades, we allowed ourselves to be known around the world as home to a stinking, leaching, rat and seagull infested garbage dump you could spot even if you were an astronaut flying through outer space. Thank goodness Guy Molinari came along and put an end to that. But then . . .
Case in Point: We were known as Home To The Godfather — and his loyal legions. The real Godfather. The one who lived a hop, skip and a jump from the Corleone family compound of the fake, movie Godfather. The one who was shot dead outside of a steakhouse in Manhattan. We might have thought that came to an end. But then . . .
Case in Point: We discovered another real Godfather was a neighbor. This Godfather shot dead, too – right here in our once-idyllic hometown in front of his own home. But then . . .
Case in Point: Slate magazine took to calling us “Planet Guido,” the place where young Staten Islanders were fond of asking, “Am I orange enough?” after climbing off the tanning bed. This all, of course, grew out of a landmark TV show called “Jersey Shore.” True, it wasn’t called “Staten Island Shore,” but when some of the main characters, including “The Situation,” hail from our shores, well . . . what can one say?
We could talk about almost 70% of Staten Islanders giddy about seceding from New York City — until we discovered the borough didn’t have the juice to get it done. We could talk about a St. George Ferris wheel touted to be the biggest on the planet that never was because its price tag ballooned to an astronomical billion dollars before the thing was scrapped half way there.
We could talk about Mac’s Public House, a Grant City bar that defied a governor’s Covid mandate to close. Where a manager in his car was accused of running down a NYC sheriff, whose leg was said to be broken before we found out it wasn’t, and where a grand jury refused to indict the manager. And where summons after summons issued to the bar during the days-long brouhaha are now being tossed.
We could talk about a failed NASCR track when a public hearing on the plan turned into a fiasco and a Staten Island state senator wound up in a headlock.
But let’s not talk about any of that. Let’s talk about the Staten Island Mall. The place about 20 of our enlightened neighbors stormed last weekend, ostensibly to get a bite to eat — sans vaccine proof or masks.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Staten Island Covid protest if the F-Bomb wasn’t tossed around as liberally as the name Trump – as in “F*** Biden,” and “Trump Won,” the latter emblazoned on a sleeveless tank top sported by one of our neighbors.
None of this went unnoticed by the Advance/SILive.com, of course. Nor did it go unnoticed by the New York Post or the Washington Post, whose editors made it one of top national news stories of the day.
A pal spotted the story on the Washington Post website and shot me an early-morning email. With tongue in cheek, he messaged, “Once again, makes you ‘proud to be a Staten Islander,’ ” followed by a frowning emoji. “It’s the whacky stuff like this that gets splashed on national media . . . not the kinder, gentler side of borough life (terrific housing prices compared to the other boroughs, residential . . . mini-communities within the larger community . . .”
This from a neighbor who cares, folks.
But that wasn’t enough. Late-night comic Stephen Colbert jumped on it and featured us in his “Late Show”opening monologue.
“Some people are not only refusing the free, life-saving medicine — they’re angry about it. This weekend some New Yorkers defied local mandates and stormed a Staten Island food court refusing to show proof of inoculation,” Colbert informed all of America.
“Well, maybe they just couldn’t resist all the options you get at a Staten Island food court! There’s Paulie’s Meatballs. There’s Sal and Son House of Meatballs. There’s Cinn-a-Meat-Ball…Auntie Anne’s Meat-zels.”
The comic was on a roll. He couldn’t stop himself.
“The crowd of around 20 included all the usual COVID experts like Tony Soprano, who skipped therapy, and a guy wearing a ‘Q Sent Me’ t-shirt. In this case ‘Q’ stands for ‘Quiznos.’ “
And you wonder why some look away when they ask where we’re from and we say, “Staten Island.”
To all my “fans” out there who I enflame every week, their fingers flying wildly on iPhone keyboards blasting me for dumping on Staten Island, let me explain. We need to shine a light on injustice or where there is wrong, and what is happening in our community is wrong.
It’s wrong for the good people who love living here. Storming a business, defying city or state mandates and screaming vulgarities as families are trying to live their lives is just plain wrong.
Maybe it worked at a tea party in Boston but it’s not 1773 anymore.
The bucolic, quiet Staten Island will never be again. Decades of unchecked development took care of that, as did City Hall ignoring us and utter lack of planning.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a worn out philosophy but there’s still something to the idea that we can agree to disagree, that you can vote for Trump and I can vote for Biden, and still be respectful neighbors.
If those 20 angry, anti-mandate Staten Islanders think they made a difference, they did. They embarrassed Staten Island on the national stage, once again.
I’ll ask Mr. Colbert to leave you with the last word.
“I’m sorry — that’s not a protest,” he said of the food-court rampage. “That’s a field trip to the Mall for 5th graders.”
Oh by the way: If you missed it, the guy who’s likely the next mayor of New York City thinks Willowbrook State School should still be open. “We made a big mistake when closing Willowbrook,” Eric Adams said on a radio show. “A few employees harmed those who were patients at Willowbrook on Staten Island. There was a reaction from the advocates to close down Willowbrook, deinstitutionalize those who needed around-the-clock services, but we didn’t balance that with real programs to give it to them.” Wrong, Mr. Adams. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Willowbrook was 50 years ago. But there is still enough proof today that the horror of Willowbrook was way more than “a few employees” harming residents. Mr. Adams needs to do his homework, and he can start by sitting with Staten Islanders like Laura and Hal Kennedy, or Diane Buglioli, who can tell him the real story of Willowbrook. They have worked for the past 50 years to right that wrong. Eric Adams isn’t mayor yet, but we can already guess where Staten Island will fit in his “five-borough” agenda.