Monday, May 14, 2012

Tragedy Under a Train Station

When your a child, you are not aware of your surroundings. Your told by your parents that you should not talk to strangers, you should not get into the car with someone you do not know, my mother always said to run and scream fire! if i was ever in a situation where I was in danger. We are told not to trust people that we do not know, they are not to be trusted. But what about the people that we do know? Can we trust them? As children our sense of perception is not as keen as when we get older, we dont sense danger as we would at an older age. This to me has so much to do with the tragic story of Lorraine Pacifico, she knew her killer. Her brothers knew her killer, he was a local boy that hung out on the block and was considered to be quiet. In fact all his neighbors around his Oakwood home said they were sorry but that they really could not say anything bad about him. He was respectful and never caused any problems on the block. But this is all on the outside, in front of people who were older, his family was well off and presumably worried about appearances. But Lorraines older brother, Anthony Pacifico remembers Kieth Vischio, he remembers what he was. He was a loner who had never had a girl friend by the age of 20, he had few friends mostly just the kids that hung out around the Oakwood Train Station. Anthony recalls a time when he ran into Keith when he, Anthony was only 12 years old, Keith said to him " Why dont we go get a cat and put it in the barb wire on top of the fence and watch the birds eat it." He said no, that it wasnt a good idea. So at the very least the Pacifico's knew Keith for about 6 years prior to the murder of their baby sister.

 On July 7th 1980, Lorraine Ann Pacifico was on her way home, It was about 5 pm on Monday afternoon when she walked into her house and called her mother as she always did to inform her that she was home and that she was going to go out and play with a few kids out on "the block". She had told her brother the same thing and went out to play. Her mother came home less then a half hour after the phone call and looked for her daughter to no avail. Around this time Lorraine's oldest brother Pete was waiting for the train in Oakwood, on his way to a concert in Central Park. He later said he had seen Keith at the station talking to a few girls. He got on the train and went to his concert, something I am sure haunts him to this day. Because by the time he got home later that night around 11 pm, his baby sister was no where to be found. Lorraine's mother called the cops and they had started to look for her asking around to the local kids, even back tracking to the Our Lady Queen of Peace school yard that was near by. A massive search was under way by the next day. Lorraine had never ran away, she excelled in school and she was by no means a "problem child", she was the apple of her mothers eye, her only baby girl. By the 9th of July there was still no leads in her disappearance and there was no motive as well. The people of Staten Island were shaken to the core, this event rocked the community. There was a kid napper out there at the very least. Parents kept their kids inside and watched the news every night thankful that they had their kids safe at home, but sick of the thought of what could have happened to this bright eyed 10 year old. The local police started asking around, even her killer had helped out with the investigation. A few kids has told the police that they should look in to Keith, that he had a loose mouth and was saying he knew a few things about it. But when asked about weather or not he saw her that day he said no, that he was not in the area on that day. This they knew was a lie because not only had Pete, Lorraine's older brother, seen him at the Oakwood station, but the two girls he was talking to had gone into the Guyon Market and told the store clerk that a man was bothering them. She then went outside to check it out and saw Keith who she knew as a local boy, and told him to leave the girls alone. He then went into the liquor store and bought 2 bottles of wine and drank one bottle while his friend, Mooch, drank the other bottle. Lorraine's brother had asked Keith, since he saw him in the area, if he had seen the young girl at any point, Keith in return said that he had not but that it was terrible that the family could not locate her and that if he heard anything he would be sure to let them know, as  he hoped for her safe return. 

crime scene
On July 11th, while the search was underway, 3 auxiliary cops made the gruesome discovery. While searching under the overpass of the Oakwood train station, they found human remains. They were sure that it was Lorraine though the body was so badly decomposed due to the heat of this July, as well as the nature of the crime that dental records where needed to make the ID. When they found it was her it was plain to see the terror that she had endured, for Lorraine was beaten in the head over 20 times with a rock, leaving 6 fractures in her skull. Her clothes were removed and her body was slashed with a broken beer bottle from under her waist up to her neck. After it was determined that it was the young girl they needed to start looking for a killer. After sending evidence to the lab for results, they discovered that prints on the bottle belonged to Keith. The cops drove to the Oakwood neighborhood to pick up the suspect, when they saw him they simply asked him to come over to the car where they said he was under arrest for murder and to get into the car. Keith replied "what?", and the cop just repeated himself. After he got into the car the men told him they would explain everything when they got to the stati

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I know my blog is mostly about past history on Staten Island, but I thought it would be really nice of me if I put together a list of upcoming events in SI so that people could get involved in our community and enjoy what our island has to offer. Book mark this post and refer back to it from time to time as I will update it every so oftern. Enjoy!!

Nature Programs for Toddlers:

Every Wednesday 9:45 – 10:30 am

Greenbelt Tree Tots for three and four year-old children

Wednesday 11:00 – 11:30 am

Greenbelt Peepers for your two year old child

Join us for our Spring session of the Greenbelt Tree Tots and the Greenbelt Peepers. Sit with your tot and enjoy stories and activities centered around nature and our animal friends in the cozy atmosphere of the Greenbelt Nature Center. Registration required. Space is limited. Fee: $4 Greenbelt Conservancy members; $6 non-members. Call (718) 351-3450 or email: for program details and registration.   This program takes place every Wednesday through June 6 at the Greenbelt Nature Center.

Alice Austen House

Teen Studio Program

2nd Saturdays of every month: May 12, June 9, July 14, August 11, September 8, October 13, November 10 from 2:30-5:00 PM
Bring your own camera, or grab one of ours, and walk away with your own artwork!
Courses include materials
No experience or cameras needed
Develop your knowledge of photography
Including portfolio development, history, fine art techniques, professional lighting & light painting.
Contact Sara Signorelli, Director of Museum Services at 718-816-4506 x10 or for registration or  scholarships fee is $20 per class.
05/20/121:00pm– 4:00pm  

5/28/12– 09/3/12

Blue Star Museum

The Alice Austen House Museum is proud to support Blue Star Museum program beginning Memorial Day weekend and conclude Labor Day weekend.  Active-duty U.S. military personnel and their families can enjoy free admission during the summer of 2012!
(photo on right is Austen's image taken in 1893.  Her notes: The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago; Summer; Illinois; travel; soldiers lined up)


Manners Can Be Fun! (Ages 5-7)

July 16 — 20, 2012 from 10am - 12 noon
Greetings, eye contact, speaking clearly, table manners, kindness, helping others and more!  Lots of fun and terrific for development of social and communication skills.
$150 plus $10 registration fee

07/23/12– 07/27/12 Photography Camp (ages 7-12)
Learn basic photography using our digital cameras and printers!  We will do self portraits, portraits, landscapes and Victorian dress vignettes as well as make your own pin hole cameras! Session #1: July 23-27, 2012 from 9:30am to 12:30pm (A second session may be added August 6-10, 2012 if there are enough students)
Cost $175 plus $10 reg

Family Farm Breakfast  August 12, 2012 09:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Decker Farm - Staten Island 
Community Day: Ice House Frolics
August 12, 2012 11:00 AM - 05:00 PM
See how people kept cool-from the 1600s until today! Play in our sprinklers, participate in a demonstration of old time ice cream making, and try the latest in bubble technology with an old recipe for soap. Enjoy a free cup of iced mint tea before you explore furnished interiors of buildings dating from the 1690s through the 1890s.

Clay Day
When Every Wed, 1:30pm – 4:30pm
Description Satisfy a "knead" by working with some air-dry clay and create a tactile piece. Create a clay bead necklace for Mother's Day.

Tot's Time Plus
When every Thu, 11am – 1pm
Description Your pre-schooler will create artwork, sing along and listen to stories. Admission + $5/child

 Kidz Cook
When every Fri 2pm – 3pm
Every Friday a different dish!

check out more events here! for the childrens museum.


Hersheypark Road Tour- July 21 1:00p - 4:00 p On the East Meadow. Games and prizes from Hershey!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alice in Wonderland

 *Please take the time out to vote for the Alice Austen house to recive a $100,000 grant to help restore it voting ends may 21st and you can vote everyday once a day, just sign in with face book go to our borough and click the Alice Austen House

Strange that I would call this post Alice in Wonderland, but the life of Alice Austen is just that, a wonder. And her life and Staten Island was indeed a wonderland. Alice had lived through the turn of the century and saw riches that ultimately ended in rags due to the stock market crash in 1929 when she was 63, but it was her undying compassion of photography that would save her in the last months of her life so that she would die comfortably in Sea View Nursing Home. Alice often goes unnoticed, this in my opinion most likely has to do with the fact that she was likely a lesbian in a day and age where such a life style was considerably  frowned upon and misunderstood. But Alice did not care and she made sure everyone knew this as you can see in some of her pictures. Also she never tried to sell her work or make a profit on it. She took pictures purely for leisure and her work was only published once in a book written by her friend about women riding bicycles.

Violet Ward and Daisy Eliot. Photo by Alice Austen. Violet was a childhood friend of Alice's. Daisy Eliot was a professional gymnast. Violet, an enthusiastic cyclist, invented a mechanism for bicycles that was universally adopted. Alice took the photographs for Violet's book, Bicycling for Ladies, published in 1896. Daisy was the model.

Alice And Gertrude
Alice Austen was born in Staten Island, New York on May 23, 1866 in St. Johns Church. She lived with her mother and her grandparents as well as her mothers siblings in their home on the north shore called Clear Comfort. Her father abandoned her and her mother before she was even born and so she was raised in her grandparents home. Her home Clear Comfort was in a prime location with beautiful views of the Narrows. She would often spend hours just watching the ships entering the harbor and departing. Her uncle was a chemistry professor at Rutgers University and he is the person who introduced Alice to her passion. She was just 10 years old when her other uncle Oswald returned home from Germany with a camera in his hand. Between her two uncles they helped to shape her passion by installing a dark room in a closet in the house. Back in a time with no running water, she would go to the well in her yard, no matter summer or winter to wash her glass plates and get water for developing her pictures. This has a direct contribute to the amount of pictures that she took. The price of developing pictures was astronomical, but with the wealth that the family had they were able to provide the best equipment for her to grow. It is estimated that Miss Austen took about 8,000 pictures, though not all of them have survived the years.

The Darned Club
Cross dressers
One to one thousand (south beach)
In 1899 Alice met Gertrude Tate in Brooklyn and they quickly became friends. After traveling to Europe with Alice on many summers, she finally moved in with Alice into Clear Comfort in 1917 against the wishes of her family since they felt that the "friendship" they had was not appropriate. They stayed together for some 55 years. Gertrude and Alice along side two other women would become known as the Darn girls or the "Darned Club". They welcomed this name from the men that tried to court them, since they never had any plans of marrying any of them, they became known as the darned girls. They mocked the men by cross dressing for photos and this was funny to them though not to anyone else. They did not care though.

Possibly the most interesting thing Alice took pictures of though is the street scenes. From bicycles to the development of cars, and everything in between. She took pictures of the poor, the working, and the rich. She never discriminated her subjects, as she saw the unique beauty in everything she laid eyes on.

 horse drawn cab
Alice was very athletic. She was a swimmer, a tennis player, a bike rider, among other things. This was very helpful to her since she was well built she was able to carry around all the equipment she needed to take her pictures wherever she was or wanted to go.  The capture of street life in turn of the century New York is really what has made her so well known. No one has done such a extensive job in doing this. The striking difference in Alice and other female photags in her time is very clear. Women where often known to capture fashion and love along with a childhood dream like feel. Alice as far as anyone can tell held little interest in this. She captured more of a nature/man relationship and the nitty gritty city life.

oyster farmers
Alice in her interview
When the stock market crashed in 1929 all of the savings that she was living off of from her grandfather was lost. Alice and Gertrude had no means to support themselves and started to sell off their silver and then the furniture in Clear Comfort. But this was all in vain and only bought them some time. After Alice took out two mortgages on the home it went into foreclosure and they had no where to go. Gertrudes family would only take her in, so Alice was sent to live in the Farm Colony poor house where she would stay for some time. Though right before the foreclosure, Alice told a friend where all her glass slides could be found and begged him to save them from the basement of Clear Comfort. In 1950 Picture Press started a project on the history of American women. Oliver Jensen of Picture Press sent out a standard form letter to various archives and historical societies, asking if any had interesting images for the project. C. Copes Brinley of the Staten Island Historical Society responded and invited someone to look through 3,500 uncatalogued Alice Austen glass plate negatives. Astonished at what he had found he tracked Alice down to the Farm Colony and interviewed her. After running her pictures and story in LIFE magazine as well as Holiday magazine ( lets not forget her travels), her portion of the money raised was around $4,000 and she was able to be moved to comfortable home in Sea View Nursing Home where she died about 8 months later on June 9th 1952.