Staten Island Rapid Transit
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EN THE first day of January 1898, Consolidation Day, the City of New York became, by the grace of the New York State legislature and in the spirit of that era of urban expansion, the City of Greater New York.
     Before the advent of the Greater City, New York had consisted only of Manhattan Island and a portion of the mainland known as The Bronx. Consolidation annexed a large portion of Queens County, all of Kings County (better known as Brooklyn) and, almost as an afterthought, Richmond County.
     Rural Richmond County seemed an odd candidate for inclusion in the urbane and powerful City of New York. The county consists of Staten Island, a geographically large part of the expanded city, but separated from the greater municipality by The Narrows, the deep-water strait leading to Upper New York Harbor, as well as by culture and tradition.
     While most cities do not fill an entire county, New York City now incorporated all of five counties.

To allow some measure of local identity and governance for these counties, New York City designates them as "boroughs." Counties are political subdivisions of the state, but these boroughs are political subdivisions of the city. Though of scant political power, it is by their borough names that most New Yorkers know the parts of their city and when New Yorkers want to refer to the entire city, they often mention "the five boroughs."

The Forgotten Borough
At the beginning of the 20th Century elevated railways operated in parts of four of the five boroughs and the City began to build its now-famous subway system, the public work that many local visionaries saw as the glue that would bind the larger city together. But though planning soon envisioned the subway reaching all five boroughs, they somehow managed to be built in only four and, to this day, the County of Richmond, now better known as the Borough of Staten Island, remains the odd man out

     Though never included in the City's subway building it was not, however, without rail transportation. On the City's Consolidation Day, 100-plus years ago, the small engines and passenger coaches of the Staten Island Rapid Transit took travelers arriving at the Staten Island Ferry's St. George terminal to the far reaches of the island. Over the years, the little railway's hopes of becoming part of the subway system rose and fell. In 1971, the railway nominally joined the rest of the larger city's rails when the remaining passenger operation, from the St. George ferry terminal to Tottenville at the island's tip, was taken over by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, by then parent agency of the city's subways. Nevertheless, the railway soldiers on in isolation, no longer connected to the mainland of the U.S., as it was in pre-MTA days.

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©1965 Silver Leaf Rapid Transit. ©2001 Paul Matus ©2001 The Composing Stack Inc

Updated Saturday, February 15, 2003