It has stood vacant for decades, falling ever farther into ruin, covered by layer upon layer of graffiti art, and used only as a spooky venue for urban explorers making YouTube videos. But in a few years, Staten Island's historic Farm Colony, once home to a New York City effort to house the poor and treat the sick, will rise again as a fashionable mix of housing and commercial occupancies geared for senior living. The Staten Island Advance has the story here (see: "$91M senior housing complex at old Farm Colony coming soon," by Anna Sanders). The New York Times is also on the story (see: "New Life for Staten Island’s Derelict Farm Colony," by David W. Dunlap).
"It is so remote," the Times reported, "that it was forgotten by just about everyone after it closed as a home for the aged poor in 1975; everyone, that is, except Staten Islanders who chafed while the abandoned 96-acre campus, officially part of the New York City Farm Colony-Seaview Hospital Historic District, fell into hopeless disrepair. That is the Farm Colony today: a place of advanced ruin and intense vegetation, like a Mayan site where buildings appear at first to be natural formations, until you spy human-laid masonry under the enveloping, strangling greenery. Theoretically, the place is off limits. Try telling that to paintballers, graffiti painters and vandals."
That's all going away, the Advance reported: "NFC Associates of Staten Island will develop the 43-acre site, located next to the Greenbelt, into 344 units of housing within a combination of medium-rise condominiums and low-rise townhouses for residents 55 and older. The complex will also include 643 parking spaces, amenities and commercial retail and community buildings as well as 17.6 acres of open space. Over 90 percent of Farm Colony's existing roads will be refurbished into biking and jogging paths, some passing through secured ruins, that will be open to all."
Staten Island developer Raymond Masucci paid one dollar for a 45-acre slice of the Farm Colony site, the Times reported. But Masucci promised to invest about $91 million redeveloping the property. "As the development corporation sees it," the TImes reported, "the city gets a lot of bang for the buck that Mr. Masucci is paying: the rehabilitation of a dangerous, derelict property; housing for older adults; the renovation of several historical buildings; the creation of new landscaping and publicly accessible space; and the construction of new roads and utilities."
The online journal Urban Omnibus has posted an extensive background report on the Farm Colony's history and the redevelopment effort (see: "Aging Architecture: The Staten Island Farm Colony’s Regeneration," by Yael Friedman). The Omnibus frames the story in light of the city's, and the nation's, changing demographics: "This development, a major project of historic preservation and reinvention, serves as a reminder of the need to radically reassess planning for a new era of aging in New York." The report sums up: "The Landmark Colony may raise many questions about ideal planning for seniors, but it also provides a new choice for Staten Islanders, and all New Yorkers, in an area of the city where aging in place seems least viable. Its value as a preservation project remains undeniable, a whole chapter of New York history lost without it. Along with providing for a rapidly aging borough, it may soon anchor new life in a part of Staten Island that has been an empty shell for decades, fostering new connections to a place that nearly ceased to exist."