Community close up: St. George

Staten Island is unique among the five boroughs of New York City. While it is the least populated, it is also the greenest borough in New York City with nearly one-third of its acreage designated as protected park land. These parks allow for its 475,000 residents have plenty of room to stretch out and provide visitors with lots of places to explore. Furthermore, Staten Island has a significantly higher share of 1-2 family homes (83 percent) than any other borough (In Manhattan, only 3 percent of homes are 1-2 family residences). 

As Staten Island’s most diverse and accessible neighborhood, St. George is on its way to becoming a go-to community for fellow New Yorkers from its sister boroughs, as well as travelers from across the country and around the world . Situated on the North Shore, St. George offers incredible views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines and is home to the Staten Island Yankees and the Staten Island Ferry, which carries 20 millions tourists and commuters every year passed the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to land in Manhattan’s financial district. A series of multi-billion dollar development projects are underway on the North Shore, which will create needed housing and a mixed-use hub for residents and visitors alike.

Spotlight Host: Susannah

Although she was born and attended college just a few miles away in Manhattan, Susannah had never considered settling in Staten Island. But when her husband suggested buying a home in his native borough, Susannah found her new neighborhood–St. George– to be a perfect fit.

In 2006, the couple purchased a converted fire house in St. George, just a few minutes walk from the Staten Island Ferry. After the housing market changed dramatically in 2008, they were forced to reconsider how they would pay their mortgage. When Susannah’s brother-in-law suggested Airbnb, she began renting a floor of the 100 year old firehouse, opening it to travelers interested in taking in New York City from a different perspective.

As a curriculum coordinator at the local Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Susannah helps children and students on Staten Island experience the world from their own backyards. Through sharing her home on Airbnb, Susannah continues to facilitate cultural exchange in her home, while helping her make ends meet as a homeowner raising two children in New York City.

What led you to start hosting?

My husband and I were in a precarious situation as first time homeowners and it was an adventure to purchase the home that we did. After the economy changed in 2008, we were left with a mortgage that we really couldn’t cover. Then, a friend suggested we try Airbnb. I was so nervous to get our first guests, but they were just wonderful people.

What have you learned from past guests?

It’s very interesting learning about current events from people who come visit. Their different sense of what’s going on in the world, whether positive or negative, is really interesting. I deeply appreciate getting to hear everyone’s point of view.

What’s an interesting story a guest has shared?

I got to learn from a woman whose family makes curtains for movie theatres. They’d been making these curtains for generations and they ship them around the country when new theatres open. We went down the rabbit hole learning about the craftsmanship of that.

How has hosting been helpful for your family?

The income has allowed us to pay our mortgage. We had just refinanced after the market downturn in 2008 and sharing our home on Airbnb allowed us to survive in our home and to come back from economic nail biting. Now, we can get ready to send our kids to college.

What local spots do you send your guests to?

Staten Island is an intimate place, it’s made up of all these little relationships. We have a great wine shop called Honor Wines you pass on your way to the ferry, and I’m really happy to send people there. Owners Lorie and John are the best and I encourage people to tell them what they’re eating and what they like, they’ll take care of you. While some people think of pizza as a Manhattan thing, our guests are always blown away by the great spots like Pier 76 that we have here in the neighborhood.

We also send our guests to Enoteca Maria, which I think is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city – it’s unpretentious but excellent. I also recommend Beso, Hop Shoppe, Flagship Brewery and Steinys, which is a great slice of Staten Island.

What is something special hosting has exposed you to?

We had a doctor stay with us whose daughter lived locally. When she became pregnant he rented our space for a month and a half just to be close by, to hang out and be around to help. I loved being able to see that, he displaced himself from his life just to be close to someone he loved.

What surprises guests about staying with you?

Our home has a garden which is hard to come by in New York City, and families love that they can travel together and really stretch out here while visiting the city.

Guests really love the ferry, there’s a surprising relationship that evolves with that time on the boat. They grow to really enjoy it, and their kids do too. I think they’re thrilled to have that time to get ready for Manhattan or decompress after a long day in the city.