July 10, 2017
Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th floor
New York, New York 10007
Re: St. Mary’s Church
1101 Bay Street
Staten Island, New York 10305
Dear Chairwoman Srinivasan,
I write to you at the behest of my north shore community residents, especially those who reside in the Rosebank/Clifton/Fort Wadsworth/Stapleton neighborhoods. Being the neighborhoods that dot the Bay Street corridor that runs from Downtown Staten Island at the site of the Staten Island Ferry and Borough Hall to the access roads to the Verrazano Bridge, these locales represent early Staten Island history from Cornelius Vanderbilt to the fortifications at Battery Weed in Fort Wadsworth. While a strongly diverse set of neighborhoods, this corridor is also home to residents and families who have resided there for generations. That diverse mix is certainly part of its great charm and its indelible character.
Progress and change is always afoot. Our north shore is the center of great interest for some of that progress and change whether it’s the New York Observation Wheel to a potential rezoning and all the energy mixed with concerns that those opportunities bring.
With that backdrop, it is not at all surprising that there is such a strong groundswell in the area to hold onto the best of what has been so that the progress and change is set on a foundation that reflects who and what the north shore has always been.
In that context, I write to you about St. Mary’s Church located on Bay Street smack in the center of this vital corridor. Community residents from the Committee to Save Mt. Manresa to the local community board have advocated with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark this stately church. They regard it as an irreplaceable structure and have reminded me that the cornerstone of St. Mary's was laid in April 1857 making the church 160 years old. It is the second oldest Catholic church in Staten Island and sits prominently on a hill. Countless Irish and Italian immigrants, four generations ago, helped to settle this church. Many of their descendants still reside in the community. Coupled with the cemetery, blessed in 1862 and the school, originated in 1867, St. Mary’s has been a fixed center, meeting its community’s needs longer than anyone can remember.
While meaningful change and progress propels us forward, communities need their constants and St. Mary's Church, with its tall tower, is one of the most meaningful of those constants. These residents believe landmarking would preserve this structure in its current stature in this place on Bay Street in the heart of a community that holds it dear.
I share their values and I support their entreaty to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to move forward on a full review that would result in landmarking.
I look forward to hearing from you, Chair Srinivasan, with any questions and comments you may have.
Councilmember Debi Rose
NYCC, 49th District