4. Romer Shoal Lighthouse
You’ll find another highlight of the Ambrose Channel tour in Lower New York Harbor, the Romer Shoal Lighthouse, a landmarked structure placed at its current location in 1898. Before becoming a beacon in the water the steel structure was used at the Staten Island Lighthouse Depot to test fuel, wicks, bulbs and other equipment. Before the lighthouse was moved to its current spot, two other structures marked the location of the dangerous shoal, or hidden ridge, beneath the water. The Romer part of the name has been contested, though the most likely story is that it was named after Wolfgang William Romer, a Dutch military engineer and cartographer who mapped New York’s waterways in the 18th-century.
The lighthouse was manned by a crew of three men while in operation. It was automated in 1966. After a severe storm caused damage to the lighthouse in 1992, the Coast Guard wanted to replace it but Joe Esposito, keeper of the Staten Island Lighthouse at the time, wouldn’t allow it. In 2011 the lighthouse was put up for auction and purchased by John Scalia. The lighthouse has sentimental value to Scalia who grew up looking at it from his home on Staten Island. It was also the first structure his immigrant parents saw as they journeyed to Ellis Island. Today, Scalia leads an organization of “Romer Keepers” who are working to restore the lighthouse which has sustained significant damage from the passage of time and storms like Superstorm Sandy.