The City and the Writer: In Staten Island with Vasyl Makhno

Part of the Special City Series / New York City 2011

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.—Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

1. Can you describe the mood of Staten Island as you feel/see it?

Staten Island is a city and an island, a part of New York City and something with its own character. It resembles neither Manhattan nor Brooklyn nor New Jersey. I especially like the old part of Staten Island, near St. George, with its hilly streets, two- and three-story brick buildings, and advertisements from the 1950s or 1960s. Some bookstores have retained an old feel, with their doors, windows, doorknobs, grates, and worn-out thresholds. Staten Island understands that it’s both a city and a province. That’s why the Verrazano and Goethals Bridges, like two leopards with metal claws, hold together its temporally out-of-sync parts. Staten Island’s other major feature is the ocean. The seascape consists of sand, boardwalks, stone and wooden piers, boats, yachts, and brick-colored ferries that pass by the Statue of Liberty every day. In addition, golf ranges, parks, a Buddhist Museum, theaters, galleries, and other instances of intimate urban life are hidden behind the island’s hills and the ocean’s green waves.

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