Stapleton Esplanade

Stapleton Waterfront Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Opened in 2016, Stapleton Waterfront Park connects Stapleton and surrounding neighborhoods with new access to the waterfront. The neighborhood of Stapleton was founded in 1836 and named for William J. Staples (1807-1883). Along with Minthorne Tompkins (1807-1881), Staples purchased the land in the northeast corner of Staten Island from the Vanderbilt family.  

As German immigrants settled here in the 1860s, they immediately recognized the area’s beer brewing potential. The many fresh springs would provide good water for brewing, and caves dug into the hillsides would provide cool storage facilities. The first brewery to open was Bechtel, and several others soon followed, the largest of which was the R & H Atlantic Brewery. Several bottling companies flourished alongside the breweries, and by the 1870s, Stapleton was the commercial center of Staten Island - with its well-to-do residents living in grand homes along St. Paul’s Avenue, and its workers living in the “workers’ cottages” downtown. 

In 1898, upon consolidation of New York City, Staten Island became a borough of Greater New York. Ten years later, a municipal ferry service was opened between Manhattan and Staten Island.  Two boats - the Stapleton and the Castleton - ran between Whitehall in Manhattan and Canal Street in Stapleton. But the ferry service was quickly abandoned in favor of an international marine terminal during the 1920s. A string of seventeen piers was constructed, along with multistory enclosures and docks. A 50-acre landfill was also built in the water to provide railroads and trucks with access to the ships. 

Unfortunately, the project separated and blocked Stapleton from its waterfront, thereby stripping the town of much of its intrinsic charm. In the 1970s, after the pier enclosures were finally torn down, the Stapleton community began to rebuild itself - a process that continues to this day.        

Stapleton Waterfront Park was created as part of the multi-phase development of the Homeport, a 35-acre decommissioned U.S. Naval Base on the north shore of Staten Island. Designed and constructed under the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the first phase of construction broke ground in 2013 and transformed seven acres into a new, sustainable, mixed-use waterfront community. Built simultaneously with the neighboring housing and commercial development, the park includes grass and landscaped areas, benches, water fountains, a fish cleaning station, lit walkways, and a newly constructed tidal wetlands cove. Stapleton Waterfront Park was officially transferred to NYC Parks in 2016.

Future phases of development will further encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the Stapleton neighborhood, strengthen the area’s climate change resiliency, and facilitate connections to the formerly underutilized waterfront. 

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