Though the borough joined New York City as part of the consolidation of the area in 1898, the name has only been officially "Staten Island" since 1975. It was known as the borough of Richmond until the name was changed to reflect the local references to the island. If the only name you want to give this area is "home," pack your bags -- it's not as difficult to get a place here as you might think.
There are enough vacancies on Staten Island that you should not have trouble finding a suitable apartment rental, even if you are short on time. However, you should expect to have plenty of upfront money to move in. Most rentals will require the first month's rent plus another month's rent as security deposit. Because of vacancies, there are deals and specials to be found, so make sure you look around.
Take a trip around the island so you can get a feel for where you might look for rental housing.
East: This area is called the East Shore, and can be found once you cross the Verrazano from Brooklyn. This area obviously gives you the best car access to the rest of the city. This side of the island is a great beach area, and South Beach boasts the fourth-longest boardwalk in the world. The F.D.R Boardwalk runs 2.5 miles down South Beach.
South: The South Shore has a real suburban feel with many homes built in the 1960s and 1970s. You can also access New Jersey with ease via the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike via the Outerbridge Crossing.
West: Moving up the West Shore Expressway, the island is more industrial and less populated. There is no easy access off the island from the west side, which is something to keep in mind when looking for apartments for rent here.
North: The North Shore, which is pretty much anything north of the Staten Island Expressway, is the most populated and urban part of the island. The neighborhoods have some historical value, including the official St. George Historic District. In these historic areas you can find the large Victorian homes you might see in small towns. If you are looking for a home for rent here, you will be close to the Staten Island Zoo and the Staten Island Children's Museum. The north has easy access west to New Jersey via the Goethals Bridge, which brings you directly to the New Jersey Turnpike and east to Brooklyn via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Although part of a world-class city with a comprehensive mass transit system, Staten Island remains a bit of an orphan. For various political reasons, through the years, Staten Island has never connected to the New York City subway system. This definitely contributes to the feeling of being the forgotten borough. However, the borough makes up for this lack of a subway connection to its brothers and sisters with many other ways to access the rest of New York City, as well as plenty of places to play without having to leave your home borough.
One of the most popular ways out of town is the Staten Island Ferry. This free service (yes, you read that correctly) connects Staten Island directly to Manhattan. The views are spectacular as the ferry passes the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the towering skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. Turns out, you can get something for free in New York City!
Though at first glance it can feel like Staten Island is disconnected from the rest of the city, Staten Island's public transportation includes the Staten Island Railroad and numerous bus routes. Commuters can easily hop on the ferry or express buses to get into work in Manhattan or one of the other boroughs. If you're staying local to work or play, the Staten Island Railroad is one of the few systems in the country that provides 24-hour, seven-days-per-week service. There is also a free connection to the New York City subway system from the Staten Island Railroad.
You can expect typical weather of the northeastern side of the United States on Staten Island. Winters can be downright frigid and snowy, with temps into the single digits, but this never lasts too long. And there's no better place to be in summer than on an island! Staten Island, with easy beach access, has an advantage over the other boroughs when it comes to beating the heat.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors on the island, including a number of local parks.
Great Kills Park: Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service, this park offers a great chance to view a little nature. Enjoy the beaches, hiking and biking trails.
LaTourette Park: Located in the middle of Staten Island, LaTourette Park is the site of one of the most successful family farms on Staten Island. The park is run by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and offers hiking opportunities, a nature center and a golf course.
Freshkills Park: The Parks and Recreation Department is taking on an ambitious project to transform this old landfill into a 2,200-acre park over the next 30 years. The park will be three times the size of Central Park and feature new ecological restoration methods. Tours of the site are available now.
Clove Lakes Park: This park, located on the North Shore, has it all. It features lakes and ponds for relaxing times, and plenty of places to work up a sweat with baseball and football fields, basketball courts and an ice skating rink.
Because of the strong Italian influence on Staten Island, you can pretty much expect the best in Italian food. Some of the top-rated restaurants include The Trattoria Romana and The Royal Crown, both in Old Town on the east shore. Bayou is another excellent choice serving New Orleans style cuisine. There are also plenty of other ethnic options including Vietnamese at Pho Mac and Spanish tapas at Beso. For a nice, juicy steak, head to Ruddy and Dean near the Staten Island Ferry terminal.