Staten Island – New York City’s little borough that Did!

By Leticia Remauro

Imagine that you are looking for a place to vacation or a new place to live.  If you’re like 99% of people planning either of these activities you will take the time to do your research.  Most likely you’ll begin on the web, typing in keywords that describe things most important to you such as “dining”, “schools” or “shopping”.  Now, imagine that your search comes back with an article from an area newspaper announcing the groundbreaking for New York City’s only retail outlet center in an up and coming Staten Island neighborhood.  You become excited by the thought of visiting this place … and then you read the comments by readers below the article and your hopes are dashed.

Comments such as: [1]“This will certainly be another North Shore Failure. People may go there, but as far as shop there??”

Or, “I wonder just how many “Staten Islanders” will ever visit this place to do something other than to just gawk at it??”

Worse still, “When the tourists go back to wherever they came from you can bet that this folly will get a belly laugh in their press and the truth will be spread far and wide!!”

With comments like those being issued by residents, how many of us would think that Staten Island is worth visiting?

As a Public Relations and Marketing professional my job is to help my clients develop a message that will entice people into hiring their company or using their product.  No matter what product or service is being offered, the fundamental principal behind marketing is the same – keep the message POSITIVE in order to attract the most people because everyone wants to be aligned with a winner and no one wants to be perceived as a loser. Most clients understand this philosophy and quickly adopt it.  For others, it takes more time.

For a little borough poised on the brink of stardom after spending its existence living in the shadow of Manhattan, the concept of positive messaging may take some time to embrace.  Such is Staten Island’s quandary.

As New York City’s smallest borough, our voice is not as loud as that of Brooklyn or Manhattan so we often find ourselves struggling for attention.  Unfortunately, that constant struggle makes us feel helpless, and we react by spewing negativity about our hometown instead of focusing on the positive things that keep us here.

Staten Islanders have successfully overcome some very big challenges and the outcome is worth celebrating.  Two that come to mind are the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill, which was once Staten Island’s number one issue because of its stench and unsightliness, and the removal of sales tax on clothing, which was a number one issue for business owners who were losing customers to nearby New Jersey which doesn’t have sales tax on clothing. Both of these successes came to pass due to the “out of the box” thinking of Staten Islanders.  The removal of sales tax on clothing began with a campaign launched by businessmen Bob Cutrona and Billy DeBiase.  The closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill occurred because of a bill that was first introduced into the New York City Council by then Councilman Vito Fossella.

When these ideas were announced, there were those Staten Islanders who said that both were doomed to failure.  They gave a litany of reasons why these men should abandon their causes.  Thankfully, Bobby, Billy and Vito demonstrated the guts and fortitude inherent in hearty Staten Islanders.  They stuck with their dreams, rallied support and overcame two of the biggest problems our borough faced at the time.

Many people hoped that winning those battles would change the negative perception of Staten Island.  After all, New York City’s smallest borough would no longer be known as “home to the world’s largest garbage dump,” or suffer the economic loss from shoppers heading to New Jersey to save sales tax.  While some people were able to celebrate these successes as a positive for Staten Island, others have been hesitant to jump on the Staten Island Public Relations bandwagon.

The loose definition of “self-loathing” is: an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group, family or social class to which one belongs.  Oftentimes, self loathing occurs in those who have been abused over a long period of time, causing the victim to identify him or herself with the negative description assigned by the abuser.

There is no doubt that the sting from government neglect has caused many native and long time Staten Islanders to feel victimized, so, in the spirit of David Lettermen, I offer them the TOP TEN THINGS STATEN ISLANDERS SHOULD BRAG ABOUT:

10:         Staten Island was the home of New York City’s first recognized female photographer (Alice Austen);

  9:          Staten Island is home to one of the oldest Science and Culture institutions in New York City (Staten Island Museum formerly known as Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences);

  8:          Staten Island boasts more clean, user friendly beaches than any other borough in New York City;

  7:          Staten Island has more parkland than any other borough in New York City;

  6:          Staten Island is home to the only restored historic village in New York City (Richmond Town);

  5:          Staten Island is the only borough in New York City to have federal land designated for a Native American Indian Monument (A 1915 Act of Congress designated a section of Fort Wadsworth for the monument);

  4:          Staten Island will soon be home to the only retail outlet center in New York City;

  3:          Staten Island is home to one of the most used tourist attractions in New York City (Staten Island Ferry);

  2:          Staten Island has the only “FREE” public transportation option in New York City (Staten Island Ferry);

  1:          Staten Island boasts the highest median family income in New York City;

Number one is worth repeating – Staten Island boasts the highest median family income in New York City!  That fact alone is enough to get the attention of savvy investors and government officials – it is definitely something worth talking about.

With Navy Pier, Lighthouse Point, The New York Wheel and Empire Outlets breaking ground on Staten Island’s north shore waterfront, New York City’s smallest borough is in a unique position to capture tourist, resident and investment dollars.  By launching a large scale public relations campaign that will cost nothing more than a change of vernacular and a few social media postings, we can parlay something good into something great.

If every Staten Islander reading this message posts just one positive fact about our island to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the positive narrative will go viral and soon more business people, health care institutions and government entities will be washing up on our shores ready to invest in us. With numbers, comes power and with power comes the ability to write our own destiny.

Please join me in this Public Relations campaign promoting STATEN ISLAND – New York City’s little borough THAT DID!