View from the top of Victory Boulevard of Manhattan at sunset. Victory Boulevard was established in 1816 as the Richmond Turnpike and stretches from the west shore to the North Shore. Photograph by Gareth Smit.
On September 16th, the historic Alice Austen House will present North Shore: an exhibition created by photographer Gareth Smit which traces the vast urban and architectural changes occurring on the north shore of Staten Island. The exhibition works as a sort of visual storytelling, specifically detailing the ways in which the neighborhood has been altered and the effects on its inhabitants. It is a must-see event for those interested in the effects of urbanization as told through the lens of photojournalism.
The north shore of Staten Island is in the process of rapid development with the influx of millions of dollars in city and private investment. Over fourteen projects are underway, including housing complexes, the New York Wheel, an outlet mall, and more. Essentially, the entire area of the North Shore will undergo a vast transformation, socially, culturally, economically and architecturally.
Construction progress at the New York Wheel on Bay St, in St. George with a view of Manhattan in the background. Photograph by Gareth Smit.
Smit is a New York-based South African photojournalist and videographer who has worked for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker and more. On Smit’s website, you can find his photo essay on Tompkinsville, which he began a year after the death of Eric Garner and the video he produced about the neighborhood for the New York Times, entitled “One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner.”
In North Shore, he focuses on Victory Boulevard, exploring the diverse population and neighborhoods of the area. He documents change in urban centers and communities, while also following the personal stories of various people living on the North Shore during this time of drastic urban development and cultural transformations.
Below you can find more of his many portrayals of Staten Islanders’ current living situations that will be on display in the Alice Austen House exhibition, including that of Peter Lowy, age 72, photographed below near Victory Boulevard a year ago in Tomkinsville, Staten Island. Mr. Lowy walks along Bay Street to get groceries from the local convenience store – there are no grocery stores on the north shore.
Photograph by Gareth Smit
Another story is that of twenty-one year-old Dominic Anderson. Smit portrays Anderson’s difficult gender transition journey in one of the most conservative areas of New York City. He also tells the story of the Caceres family, who moved to the north shore out of financial necessity, like many others residing in the area. This project includes portraits in Tompkinsville Park, which shows the conflicting narratives concurrent within a single public space. These individual stories provide an insider perspective to what it’s like to be a resident of the North Shore currently, and the pressures that are already being felt as the speed of development is underway.
Dominic Anderson, 20, with his dad, Walter John, 60, and dog, Paddy at their home on November 3rd, West Brighton, Staten Island. Dominic comes from a traditional Irish Catholic Staten Island Family, his dad served in the NYPD for 20 years and is now retired, his mom supports his family by working four jobs. Photograph by Gareth Smit.
Woman walks to car, near Victory Blvd. on August 9th, 2016 in Castleton Corners, Staten Island.The corner of Victory Boulevard and Manor Road in Castleton Corners has long been the center of a prominent commercial district. The area had largely been built up by the time the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964, and has seen little change to its demographic makeup unlike many other neighborhoods on the north shore that experienced dramatic changes as the borough population doubled between 1960 and 2000. Photograph by Gareth Smit.
Smit himself will host the opening of the exhibition North Shore on September 16th from 3:00-5:00 pm, with free general admission to the public.
Next, read about the abandoned Paramount Theatre in St. George Staten Island, about upcoming developments and current community initiatives on Staten Island’s North Shore, and the secrets of Seaview Hospital on Staten Island.
If you are interested in learning more about Staten Island, read Staten Island Aerial Gondola Plan Hopes to Better Connect SI to Manhattan or check out Urban Exploration Tour of the Abandoned Sea View Hospital on Staten Island.