WARD HILL AND STAPLETON
While prices in some of Staten Island's more outlying -- and more suburbanly sprawling -- neighborhoods are verging on astronomical, charming old Ward Hill and Stapleton are just beginning to awaken. The homes here on winding, sometimes steep streets were built mostly in the thirties and forties, with some dating back to the 1890s. Beautiful wooden Victorian houses on leafy, quiet blocks, some with sweeping views of New York Harbor, are a short drive or a twenty-minute walk to the free ferry, to golf, and to open spaces in Silver Lake Park. The Newhouse Gallery for Contemporary Art and the Botanical Gardens are in nearby Snug Harbor. And at the ferry terminal, which is a mile away, plans are in place for the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences Museum, the National Lighthouse Center, and 20,000 square feet of stores and restaurants -- with a Yankees minor-league baseball stadium nearby. At perfect arm's length from this development are Ward Hill and Stapleton. So don't be surprised when prices start climbing.
Prime areas: Property values tend to rise as you ascend Ward Hill. Mud Lane has gorgeous nineteenth-century Victorians and Tudors still selling in the low 300s. Veteran state senator John Marchi lives on exclusive Nixon Avenue. Near the top of the hill on Ward Avenue, there are some gorgeous brick and stone Colonials with magnificent views. On Tompkins Circle, a three-bedroom home built in the thirties with panoramic views stretching from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, just sold for $350,000. "I was advertising it as a million-dollar view at 50 percent off," says realtor Jon Salmon.
Wrong side of the tracks: Down the hill, developers are beginning to build tidy, affordable brick townhomes with finished basements on Beach Street, which used to consist of weed-filled lots. But the lower part of Stapleton still has a seedy feel, with run-down commercial buildings. Property values continue to struggle against the low-income wake of a massive sixties housing project on Broad Street.
Commute to midtown: Five minutes to the ferry, another 25 minutes for the harbor crossing, followed by a twenty-minute subway ride.
Public schools: Some parents opt for nearby private schools like Our Lady of Good Counsel, which is on Ward Hill; Trinity Lutheran on St. Pauls Avenue; or all-girls Notre Dame on Grymes Hill, because at public elementary and intermediate schools like P.S. 14, P.S. 16, and I.S. 49, only about 35 percent of students were reading at or above national averages. I.S. 61, a magnet school for the performing arts, covering Ward Hill, had a more respectable 50 percent at or above grade level. Covering the whole area, Curtis High School, with a highly competitive honors program, is well regarded.
Hot-button issue: Long-brewing plans to develop the former Navy Homeport area at Stapleton as everything from movie studios to a racetrack remain stalled.
Hotshot brokers: Jon Salmon of Salmon Real Estate (718-273-1200), and Betty Siller of Key Realty (718-816-9700).