Saturday, August 28, 2010

Greenridge & The abandoned Highway.

                      As a teen living on Annadale Rd. i often walked to Greenridge to meet up with my friends. There werent many places for kids our age to go hang out and not get chased away by cops all night. I would walk to Greenridge and meet up with the rest of my friends knowing that they would be there ( this was before everyone had a cell phone). I would walk down Dorval till it hit the Korean War Vets and like everyone else cross through the abandoned highway. We would all hang out on that highway, away from people that could yell at us and of course cops. I remember always thinking about how that highway got there and where was it supposed to be going anyway? I've walked all the way up it literally leads to no where. I'm sure I am not the only one who thought about this, because we've all talked about it. Well I found out the answer as to how it got there and why it never got finished, along with a couple more interesting facts.

                  In 1921, on the corner of Aurthur Kill rd and Richmond ave were safari golf now sits, sat a amusement park and restaurant call Al Deppe's. It was an indoor play ground with small rides and pin ball machines, a beautiful carousel that was imported from Germany, as well as shooting booths for target practice. . The owner who opened this place also bought a mansion built in the 1850's across the street, known to me and you as the Elks Club. 

After buying the house, Al built a 200 ft tunnel that ran from his house to the restaurant across the street so that he could go back and forth with money and other such valuables unnoticed and unharmed. Some people say Al was so paranoid he actually hid some of his money in the tunnel for safe keeping and that its still there today. Along with this tunnel there are a few other tunnels that lead to various locations in the area, some dating back to the civil war era as legend has it. Before the construction of the Korean War Vets and the West shore Richmond Ave was the only way to travel from Eltingville, so of course this place did very well and was a well known establishment. They were best known for the hot dogs and their fresh clams.

          And so the story always ends the same, in the late 1960's or early 1970's the city wanted to build a better way to travel the Island, and proposed the building of The Richmond Parkway, currently the Korean War Vets, and Al Deppe's stood right in the way. So the place was condemned and knocked down to make way for the exit off the Parkway. As we know this never came about though there are 4 over passes ( 2 on each side) that were built, along with a street sign, and paved roads with guard rails and all. The plan was to make a quick exit from the Richmond Parkway to the Staten Island Expressway, it was to cut though CSI as well, however it was never even fished due to a change of plans.It must have been a heartbreak for the Deppe family and other people who frequented the spot.


*Any pictures and info about any topic would be great.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tottenville - the town the oyster built.

                     Tottenville is considered the "End of New York". Its located on the southern most tip of Staten Island. Tottenville is home to many historic sites, and land marks. The Billop House is the southern most building in New York state and was built in 1898, in the late 17th century when Staten Island was an independent county. It was built by Captain Christopher Billop, and played a big part in Revolutionary War history, which Tottenville played some part in. The Totten family, in the 18th century owned a large amount of land on the island. After a few different names such as Unionville and Bently Dock, it was settled that the town would be called Tottenville. The towns name was changed in 1869. 

             The confrence house was also built by Christopher Billop in 1678, the family owned the house as well as the surrounding area through to 1776, when the failed meeting took place. In 1784 the property was taken over because the Billop family were Tories. 

           In the early 1900's Tottenville was a thriving town, filled with business and well known familys. Staten Island became part of New York State/city in 1898. Tottenville, with the use of the ferry that crossed the Aurther Kill into Perth Amboy, was the center of trade and travelers coming from Philly. The streets where lined with mom and pop shops and new stores and family owned businesses, even small factories, such as the Terra Cotta plant that produced decorations for the city's first skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, as well as some of the houses in Sea View. Ship and boat building were also major factors if income to Tottenville, with WWI the revival of boat building was underway though short lived and the last ship yard in Staten Island closed in 1930. Tottenville, in the late 1800's into the early 1900's was known for oyster distribution. Most of the fanciest and lavish houses built at the end of the 19th century, were built for oyster mongols. Places as far away as Europe where getting their oysters from this island. But in 1921 the farming of oysters was shut down by the New York City health department due to pollution and thus making them unsafe and unclean.  Rumors where going around that some people are trying to revive the oyster beds in Raritan Bay. The oysters actually filter the water and clean it out so this would be beneficial in more then one way. Unfortunately NJ state officials put an end to this saying that the water is not clean enough to do this and that they do not have the means to support the project long enough to find the outcome. They had to destroy all the oyster beds that they took over 2 years to build up. 
         With the opening of the outterbridge crossings in 1928, there was little need for the Peth Amboy ferry and it was used less and less until it shut down for good in 1963.Tottenville is a beautiful town with all the big old houses and sea front property, but no longer carries the charm that it once did, and no longer thrives as it had a long time ago. I love it over there though, the parks are beautiful as are all the trees and old houses, some places still look like something out of the early 1900's, with the big yards and houses on top of hills.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lakeman-Courtelyou-Taylor House: One of the oldest buildings in Staten Island

Lakeman-Courtelyou-Taylor House
 In the New Dorp section of Staten Island stands a pretty amazing building. Said to be built in 1680 by Abraham Lakeman, a well known islander who's name appears all over the Islands historic documents, it stands on what is now Richmond Rd for over 5 centuries, 2286 Richmond to be exact. Richmond Road is a colonial-era road whose origins go back to, maybe even, the Native American period before the colonization.

Lakeman built this house on a piece of property he received from his fathers estate  after his death. Then in 1751 it was bought by Aaron Cortelyou, who's son in law sold it to Joseph Taylor in 1794. The house is now owned by the  Kirchoffer family who bought it in 1928 and use it as part of their family business, you guessed it a floral shop. Better known to new aged islanders as Moravian Florist.

The house was going to be torn down to make room for newer structures, but in 1999 the Kirchoffer family hired a architect from the island named David Carnivale. So in 2001 the plans were set into action after researching the history of the home. Carnivale discovered that even though the house had major structure problems, it was surprisingly intact. He uncovered 3 17th century fire places, beautiful paneling walls where uncovered that dated to the 17th century as well. There is little history and documents on this house, but i will try to gather up some more info as i am planning a trip to the historical society to rummage through old documents i will update this post as soon as i can.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the yesteryears of Staten Island

The Elks club before it was The Elks club

New Dorp Train Station

The New Dorp train station

The ferry terminal
old Annadale Town

The Outer Bridge under constrution

 The Narrows Verrazzano Bridge under construction 

Cropsey: the Staten Island booggie man...

                             I am only 23 years old, so i wasn't aware of this story growing up on Staten Island. I have heard about just about every other story this island has to offer, I mean this is said to be the most haunted borough. We have Richmond Town, Sea View, The Farm Colony... I could keep going.. and I will get to these stories sooner or later, but what got me was the story of cropsey. I was flicking through the channels and came across a commercial about a documentary that's to be aired on channel 23 (if you have timeWarner cable) on Friday at 9 pm. I figured if they were making a whole documentary about this then it may be worth exploring. So i googled it, of course. And so here is what i came across.

Alice Pereira
It was the 1980's, at the time, the island was much less populated then it currently is. It was a very family oriented place with more wooded areas then the other 4 boroughs. There was an urban legend called cropsey about an escaped mental patient ( no surprise there) that lived in the woods and would pray on little kids. This was mostly passed along by kids trying to scare each other or parents trying to keep their children close by and keep them from wandering out of the neighborhood. But in the 80's an urban legend took on its own real life antics when children around the island started going missing. Enter Andre Rand, who worked as an orderly in the Willowbrook State School in the 1960's. As it turns out he actually lived on the grounds after the closing of  the Willowbrook school at various make shift camp sites he set up in abandoned buildings and also in the under ground tunnels that ran under the institution. 

Holly Ann
        The 1st girl to grab attention but no the 1st to go missing, and the only one who's body was recovered  was 12 year old Westerleigh girl Jennifer Schweiger, who had down syndrome. She disappeared on July 9th 1987 and was found later in August of that same year. She was found in a shallow grave near the abandoned building. Andre Rand was the last person to be seen with her alive for whatever reason a 42 year old homeless guy is the only one with a 12 year old not to mention a young girl with down syndrome is beyond me. It took over 30 days of searching and combing the island to find this girl. He was arrested but only convicted of kidnapping, not for murder and is currently serving 25 years to life. But if you thought it ended there it doesn't. In 2004 Andre took the stand again facing charges on kidnapping and murder charges in the case of  7 year old Holly Ann Hughes who went missing in 1981, before Jennifer was taken. She was playing with her friends near a local Port Richmond deli. A witness saw a green Volkswagen shadowing her. Witness Elsie Caban, says she saw this car about 6 times over a 2 hour span moving closer to Holly and her friends. "The Volkswagen moved next to the tracks on Park Ave.," Caban said, recalling how she had previously seen the car up the street. 

"Now, the car was on the other side of the street with the children around down by the trestle." Caban said she first saw the car parked outside her Park Ave. home in Port Richmond and across the street from where her children were playing with Holly Ann outside the child's home. A short while later, as Caban walked to a deli to buy soap, she saw the car parked near the railroad tracks. Caban testified that the last time she saw Holly Ann was between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. as the child strolled alone on Ann St. toward Port Richmond Ave. Caban, who was on her porch, said she noticed several minutes later the Volkswagen was gone. Perhaps the strangest twist in this story is that the sales clerk that was working that night at the deli remembered Holly come in and bought a bar of ivory soap. He said she came in at about 9:30 pm to buy a bar of soap and she was a nickle short. Why is this strange? Well because Elsie Caban stated that she too went into that same deli and bought a bar of soap, and according to the clerk she too was a nickle short. Andre has admitted to being there and states that he actually gave the girl money and told her to go buy a bar of soap because she was dirty. Oh no it doesnt end there, Rand is also likely connected to the kidnappings of additional girls: Tiahease Jackson, 10, who disappeared Aug. 13, 1983, out of The Mariner's Harbor Hotel where she was staying with her family. Her mother was asleep around 1:30 pm and a neighboor asked her to run to the store for her. She was never seen again after buying chicken wings at Crown Supermarket, 900 Richmond Ave.; and Alice Pereira, 5, who disappeared on July 10, 1972, near her apartment in the Tysens Ln area of the New Dorp section, several miles southeast of Willowbrook. She vanished after her brother left her alone for all of 5 minutes. Audrey Lyn Nerenberg is another girl about the age of 18 although she had the mentality of a 14 year old when she was taken. She lived in  Flatbush, Brooklyn but was at a theater on Staten Island the day before her disappearance on July 5th 1977.  The theater is the former Jerry Lewis Theater that was on Forest Ave., not far from Rand's makeshift campsites. Audrey was last seen at her house in Brooklyn where she told her mother she was going two blocks away for a pack of cigarettes. Though her father received a call claiming to be the abductor, and demanding ransom, she was never seen or heard from again. He has also been linked to the disappearance of Ethel Atwell and the rape and murder of Shin Lee, both Willowbrook aides. 

Tiahease Jackson
                     Andre Rand has not given cops any extra information to help solve any of the cases, and to this day no body knows exactly what happened in the events leading up to the death of little Jennifer and the others. Few speculate that he passed some of the girls around among his friends, who knows if this is true. What really gets me is that this could have all been stopped before it all started. His first encounter with the law was May 25, 1969, when he some how got a 9-year-old Bronx girl into his car and drove to a vacant lot. He took off his clothes and hers, but a passing police car interrupted the crime. Charged with attempted rape, Rand pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to four years. He served 16 months. In 1979, he was accused of raping a young woman and a 15-year-old girl, but neither pressed charges. In 1981, he offered a 9-year-old girl a lollipop and tried to lure her to ride in his Volkswagen. When she refused, Rand followed her to her home and searched for her while she hid under a rug. No charges were filed. And in January 1983, he drove to a Staten Island YMCA, lured 11 children into his van and drove to Elizabeth, N.J., where he bought them White Castle. He then took them to Newark Airport, where they watched planes arrive and depart. When he brought them back to the YMCA five hours later, Rand was charged with unlawful imprisonment and served 10 months in jail. Of course he and his lawyer maintain his innocence saying  that Rand was "thoroughly investigated at the time. . . . His photograph was shown to persons who had seen Holly Ann Hughes shortly before her disappearance and none of them have identified [him] as having been near or with the child on July 15, 1981."

            In a letter Rand wrote he said that that he has been the victim of "a slanderous/scapegoat article resurrecting [so-called] 'notoriety,' thus encouraging hostility against plaintiff. Focusing and arousing public attention toward plaintiff from so-called 'missing persons' old cases - such persons plaintiff has never met!" In a jailhouse interview with The News in 1987, Rand repeatedly lied to a reporter, saying he had never met Jennifer Schweiger. Though he changed his story real quick at trial, after his defense lawyer learned there were several witnesses who saw him with his bicycle leading the trusting little girl with Down syndrome by the hand away from her house toward the woods at Willowbrook. And inmates have said that Rand in his own words  referred to him self as similar to Ted Bundy notorious women killer. "You know me and [Ted] Bundy are alike in many ways. We both used Volkswagens. Bundy's thing was women. My thing is kids. . . . Do you think the police could figure that out?" Andre also boasted to inmates that no one will ever find Holly's remains. He also asked a prison mate where he could find a porn magazine similar to his but with children instead. 

The search for Jennifer
Even 20 years later Friends of Jennifer, a group of people that dedicated much efforts to the recovery of Jennifer, still search the Willowbrook area once a year in hopes to recover anything that would help any of the cases against Rand.