One can see right away the distinct man made elements of Midland Beach. The built environment of the area is heavily focused on recreation and other pleasurable activities. The coast area itself is covered in an assortment of areas for people of all ages to enjoy. While the beach is to this day regarded as undesirable, the surrounding area still retains a relatively high standard of being with uniform condos and nice neighborhoods as you go inland.
The most apparent part of the built environment is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk, which was established in 1935 following New York City’s acquisition of the beach. The boardwalk extends for 2.5 miles, the length of the beach itself.
Near the southern end of the boardwalk is a very long fishing pier, one of the bigger attractions to the area remaining and actively used today. The boardwalk however is very bare aside from this, being used mostly by those wishing to gaze upon the water as they walk along it.
While care was put in to building and maintaining the boardwalk, the same diligence has not been put into the upkeep of the beach itself. Many people have avoided going to the beach today because it is viewed as unclean; litter and debris are often found scattered along the beach and in the water.
Today the boardwalk serves a more symbolic purpose as opposed to a practical one. One notices the several monuments along the boardwalk such as the Midland Beach War Memorial as well as several famous dolphin statues erected 1998. The appearances are certainly impressive, however the actual legacy of the beach has not been maintained.
Alongside the boardwalk are several other city produced areas of recreation. A bike trail sits directly next to the boardwalk, which experienced a decent amount of use on the day our group visited. From then on there are multiple playgrounds as well as fields for playing several different sports such as baseball and even skating. The area feels very calm and relaxing as the area is kept very clean and free from negative influences.
One of the many baseball fields, along with other parks and walkways, that line the Boardwalk at Midland Beach.
The area is unnaturally clean compared to surrounding areas. The housing nearby is uniform and comprised of condo units. It is very suburban, with many small bungalows in the area.
The actual boardwalk entrance is grand and dotted with statues as well as being home the Vanderbilt catering hall, whose name alone inspires feelings of class, as well as the South Fin Grill which is a popular place to eat throughout the year.
As mentioned previously, the settlements in the area were often very close to the water due to inability to comfortably move too far inland.This has lead to the very tight placement of buildings along the area. This has proven to be a hazard as countless fires have ravaged the area over the years. As noted in a newspaper article from not long ago, the area is still heavily crowded and packed together leading to safety hazards even still (Kerry Murtha, 2000). Whether this will ever be addressed is unknown.
As opposed to the built environment, something that should be noted is what isn’t built. While great care was taken in building around the beach, the beach itself has received little attention. From the looks of it the city has taken no measures to attempt to rekindle interest in the beach itself. While talks have gone on for years for rebuilding the beach environment, no action has been made. Whether this stems from the overwhelming pollution in the area or the city’s decision to not pay attention to the area is unknown.
On the right is a picture of Midland Beach during the early 1900s when it was a popular resort area for those in the Metropolitan area; today it is not as heavily populated during the Summer.
Dickenson, Richard. 2003. “Holden’s Staten Island: The History of Richmond County.” N.p.: Center Migration Studies.
“Midland Beach.” NYC Parks. December 26, 2001. http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/historical-signs/listings?id=12257
“Midland Beach.” Staten Island History. Accessed April 15, 2012. http://www.statenislandhistory.com/southmidland-beaches.html
“Midland Beach Fire Wipes Out Resort, 4 Hotels, 15 Homes,” New York Times, September 27th, 1924. http://search.proquest.com.proxy.library.csi.cuny.edu/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/103353917/1352AE0ABF1413014E4/3?accountid=28715
Merlis, Brian, and Bob Stonehill. 2003. “Staten Island: In Old Post Cards.” N.p.: Israelowitz Publishing.