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Historic Port Richmond

Preservation Association

Civic Summit

Keynote Address

February 10, 2018

Warren A. Mac Kenzie

We envision today as the beginning of a dialogue.  As that dialogue progresses, we hope to reconvene again at some point;  and

certainly we hope to connect everyone so we are working together between now and then. 


Let me begin by throwing something out there that might be a little argumentative, . . when this church founded Staten Island . . .

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What came about were little communities scattered throughout the landscape of this island.  Names that are familiar to all of you.  These little communities each had their unique identity; and each community supported the other communities.  Fast forward a hundred years or so . . . Robert Moses came up with his grand plan to make us the gateway to New York.  When that happened, when that dreaded bridge came, certainly the identity of the landscape changed.

I’m not anti development but I’m certainly anti overdevelopment.  I doubt that there is anyone here that would argue with the fact that overdevelopment is the downfall of Staten Island in the past 50 years.


All of those little communities have now been filled in   There is no space anymore between Port Richmond and Elm Park, Elm Park and Mariners Harbor.  We have morphed into one big, giant place.  Not that that’s such a bad thing, but when there has been no consideration for infrastructure, when there has been no consideration that maybe we are putting too many houses in there, something effectively has gone awry.


Right before Christmas I came here from Eltingville, it took me 45 minutes to drive from Eltingville to Port Richmond.  As large tracts of land have become fewer and fewer, developers are now focusing on smaller tracts of land and squeezing in more and more housing.  You don’t have to go too far to see those 10-foot-wide dwellings that are being slapped up; each with three, four, maybe five cars.  At some point we are not landlocked, here, we are an island, and at some point, we are running out of space.


I know I am preaching to the choir.  I know all these things I’ve been telling you are things that are the reason, or part of the reason, that you are here today.


What are we going to do about it?  Well one of the things that we are going to do about it is that we are going to bring our various groups together and start speaking with one voice. Who knows better the destiny of the community than the people who live in the community? 


Does the Bureau of Standards and Appeals know better?   I think not.  Again this might be argumentative but when we coined the phrase City Planning and  turned that into an oxymoron here on Staten Island, something is wrong.   Somebody’s not listening.   Maybe part of that is because we are not speaking collectively.


31 Civics were invited today, there are 15 present.  Instead of the 15 of us talking in 15 different voices, beginning today we can possibly begin to speak in one voice.  There are a host of issues out there. Certainly today is not long enough to address all of those issues.  But certainly today is the time that we can start to codify those issues, get them on paper, and get the voice out there.


Remember that movie, Network?  The guy stuck his head out the window and yelled,

“I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” 

Maybe the time has come.  We begin this morning.

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