12 vintage photos that show what New York City's 'forgotten borough' looked like in the 1980s

A new book called "Summer Days Staten Island"

Exploring the neighborhood
In the 1980s, when photographer Christine Osinski and her husband were forced out of their New York City loft by real estate developments, they decided to leave Manhattan completely.

But they didn't go too far — in 1982, the couple bought an affordable house on Staten Island, though they didn't know much about the borough.

"We had taken the ferry ride multiple times on hot summer days while living in Manhattan, but never got off," Osinski told. About a year after the move, Osinski took out her camera to explore the neighborhood that still felt new. Her photos have been shown in galleries, and more recently came together in a new book called "Summer Days Staten Island".

Osinski shared some photos that show what life was like in Manhattan's "forgotten borough" in the 1980s.

At the time, Osinski and her close group of New York friends knew little about the borough. "[Many of our friends] had never been to Staten Island. It seemed like a very remote place, a world away," she told.

At 102 square miles, Staten Island is New York's third largest borough, but the least densely populated.

In 1980, about 350,000 people were living there — compared to the 1.4 million in Manhattan.

At the time, the New York housing market was booming. Prices throughout all five boroughs increased by an average of 152% between 1980 and 1989.

Staten Island was the least affected by these price appreciations. Average home prices went up between 103 and 130% in the same period — still a significant increase.

"We were tired of fixing up rentals and getting the boot," Osinski said. "And because we had very, very limited resources, it was suggested to us that we look in Staten Island."

Before moving to Staten Island, Osinski had no preconceived notions about the people or culture there. "I had no pictures in my head about it," she said.

Staten Island accounts for one-fifth of New York City's shoreline, and there are two beaches fit for swimming: Midland Beach and South Beach.

Osinski noted that she "did not set out to document the people of Staten Island." "Each time I started out I set myself a goal to find one interesting thing to photograph that day," she said. "I was never disappointed."

"Everyone I photographed was a stranger to me," Osinski said. "Mostly, I photographed people once and then never saw them again."

"Each of the photographs offers a particular glimpse of a certain time and a certain place: Staten Island in the early 1980s," Osinski said.

Osinski wants her images to speak for themselves. "The job for artists, as I see it, is to see what is right in front of them ... and in describing it well, show it in a new light," she said.


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