Just across the harbor, an urban hamlet primed to soar.
In 1958, Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt accepted a job at McKee High School in St. George and ended up teaching there for 30 years. He later wrote, "How could I pass up that daily ferry ride, that skyline, that great sweep of harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island -- a daily reminder of the thousands who had passed through?" While the ferry ride hasn't gotten any shorter since 1958, the psychological leap for many Manhattanites is definitely shrinking. This hilly neighborhood at the tip of Staten Island is filled with affordable, beautifully restored Victorians and Colonials, and the ferry is within a three-to-fifteen-minute walk of anywhere in town. And with a host of big projects under way, St. George and neighboring Tompkinsville are finally poised for the renaissance that has been promised for decades.
- New additions Look no farther than right next to the ferry terminal, where a $79 million stadium opened in June to house the Staten Island Yankees. New, higher-end commercial development has also crept in, but the biggest boon to the area is the $84 million ferry-terminal project, which will open in stages over the next three years.
- Meet the neighbors St. George resident Elizabeth MacDonald, a senior editor at Forbes, moved in three years ago. "I thought, well, they're going to be closing the Fresh Kills dump, which they have," she says. "And they're going to be building a baseball stadium, which they did, and so I was just betting that real-estate prices were going to pop." Her monthly housing costs (about $1,400) for her three-bedroom home with a garage and a backyard are about the same as the rent she paid in Stuyvesant Town. "I'm sort of still not used to it," she says. "I've lived in apartments all my life, so I feel like I'm coming home to my own bed-and-breakfast."
- Viewing pleasure Hard-core urbanites who couldn't care less about having a yard or a finished basement might be more at home in nearby Bay Street Landing, two former warehouses that were converted to luxury apartments. They offer unobstructed harbor and Manhattan views. While one-bedrooms start at around $150,000, larger units with wide balconies now go for as much as $540,000.
- Prime areas For those looking for historic, landmark-status homes, the area around St. Mark's Place and Westervelt Avenue is highly coveted.
- The cons While the town is lined with beautiful turn-of-the-last-century homes, some have fallen into serious disrepair, marring otherwise bucolic neighborhoods. And though retail development is on the rise, you'll need a car.
- Schools Curtis High School has made huge strides in recent years, and it currently has the lowest drop-out rate of any zoned public high school in New York City, but it operates at 156 percent of capacity. Many residents pass on the local elementary school, P.S. 16, and opt for one of several private schools, including Trinity Lutheran in Tompkinsville.
- The commute The ferry is a 25-minute free ride that runs 24 hours a day. Total commute time from St. George to midtown runs 45 minutes to an hour.
- Best brokers Norma Sue Wolfe at Gateway Arms Realty (718-273-3800) and Charles Auer at Vitale Sunshine Realty (718-979-3333).
131 ST. PAUL'S AVENUE
Five-bedroom, two-bath side-hall Colonial, circa 1899, in Tompkinsville. New hardwood floors, three fireplaces, new skylights in top-floor bedroom, refurbished eat-in kitchen. Partial views of New York Harbor and Brooklyn. Fifteen-minute walk to Staten Island Ferry. In contract. $264,400.