It’s a mark of something—honor, discretion, perhaps obsolescence—when the name of your town is unknown to both the police and the local real estate agent. And Egbertville, Staten Island, enjoys both those forms of anonymity. Barely larger than an IKEA parking lot, the wee neighborhood on Lighthouse Hill has been around since the early 1800s. As for which description befits the little ‘burg—honorably tight-lipped, municipally obsolete, or just happy to remain unknown—only the residents know for sure. Here’s hoping one will write in with the answer.
In any case, some basic facts: Egbertville lies about a third of the way down Staten Island, smack atop the ridge of hills which forms the island’s spine. Rockland Avenue, Richmond Road, and Richmond Hill Road, each a significant Staten Island thoroughfare, form three of the neighborhood’s borders; the fourth is defined by the southern boundary of LaTourette Park and Golf Course. To a first-time visitor, the place gives the impression of having been dropped into the middle of a forest: trees form physical and visual barriers at almost every turn, and even at this time of year the air is filled with the chattering of birds and squirrels.
Egbertville is almost entirely residential, and virtually every residence is a detached single-family home. Renters will have better luck elsewhere on the island, but those looking to buy will have their pick of architectural styles, from 19th-century Victorians to Sixties-era ranches; there’s even a Frank Lloyd Wright home on Lighthouse Hill. And for better or worse, new McMansions are springing up like weeds in the few remaining empty lots.
Such commerce as there is in Egbertville “concentrates” on Richmond Road, but without a grocery store nearby, or even a convenience store, residents have to head elsewhere for food and entertainment. Several bus lines do make stops along the main roads that border the town, but practically speaking they’re useful only to local school kids and casual visitors. Which begs a question: Why would anyone visit Egbertville?
The trees hold one answer. The forests of LaTourette Park are part of Staten Island’s justifiably famous Greenbelt, a chain of public pastures and woodlands that runs for about eight miles along the island’s central ridge. Four main trails, each accessible from Egebertville, traverse the Greenbelt, taking hikers past ruined farmhouses, small ponds and marshes, and dense stands of hardwood and shrubbery where birdwatchers ply their trade in the warmer months.
Also in Egbertville is the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, one of those strange, wonderful places that New Yorkers instinctively know exist and almost unerringly fail to find. Designed to resemble a Tibetan monastery, it currently exhibits about 120 antique works, as well as some newer acquisitions—among them a sand mandala painstakingly constructed, grain by grain, last year by a Bhutanese monk. Beyond its educational value, the museum, with its quiet garden and rock-lined pond, offers a species of tranquility rarely found in the five boroughs.
Lastly, there’s Historic Richmond Town, New York’s version of Colonial Williamsburg. Located at the junction of Richmond and Richmond Hill roads, this “living museum” hosts educational tours of and craftwork demonstrations in its roughly 30 restored historic structures, the oldest of which was built way back in 1670. Open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday, it’s a great place to bring the kids. Grown-up fun can be had, too—especially on Saturday nights at the Richmond Town Tavern, when local groups play acoustic concerts of various styles (folk, bluegrass, sea shanties) at 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Boundaries: Rockland Avenue to the east, Richmond Road to the south, Richmond Hill Road to the west, and LaTourette Park to the north.
Transportation: Staten Island Railroad’s New Dorp stop is the closest train station to Egbertville; it’s a 20-minute walk. By bus, take the 74 from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to Lighthouse Avenue, about a 45-minute ride. Locally, S54, S84, X15 (drop-off only) and S57 serve the main Egbertville roads.
Main Drags: In addition to the roads named above there’s Lighthouse Avenue, which functions as Egbertville’s Main Street and climbs directly from Richmond Road to the crest of Lighthouse Hill.
Prices to Rent and Buy: Few rental properties exist in Egbertville, but prices for studios in the general area begin at about $750; one-bedrooms begin at $900, and two-bedrooms at $1100. Single-family detached homes range from $450,000 to $1 million, depending on age, size, location, and condition.
Hangouts: As mentioned above, there is no real commercial area in or near Egbertville; however, the Parsonage Restaurant at Historic Richmond Town serves lunch and dinner.
Places of Interest: The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art (tibetanmuseum.org); Historic Richmond Town (historicrichmondtown.org); the Greenbelt (sigreenbelt.org). Also, kids will enjoy seeing the Staten Island Range Lighthouse, which still guides ships into and out of New York Harbor; it’s not open to the public, however (on Edinboro Avenue, a short walk from the Jacques Marchais Museum).
Crime: The 122nd Precinct, which covers a 27-square-mile tract that includes Egbertville, recorded 5 murders in 2005 (up from 1 in 2004); 11 rapes (6); 105 robberies (110); 203 burglaries (230); and 110 felonious assaults (87). Speaking of Egbertville in particular (once its location had been explained to her), an NYPD community relations representative said, “There’s virtually no crime in that area to speak of.”
Representatives: New York City Council: James S. Oddo, Republican; New York Senate: John J. Marchi, Republican; New York State Assembly: Michael J. Cusick, Democrat; U.S. House of Representatives: Vito Fossella, Republican; U.S. senate: Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 20, 2005