STATEN ISLAND -- officially known as Richmond -- is separated from Manhattan by the five-mile corridor of Upper New York Bay, a half-hour ride by ferry. A pear-shaped island 13.9 miles long and 7.3 miles broad at its widest point, it follows closely the contours of the New Jersey coast, to which it is connected by three immense bridges spanning Arthur Kill and Kill van Kull. Owing perhaps to its isolation from Manhattan -- the ferry providing the only public transportation -- the community has maintained an air of rural self-sufficiency, in spite of the fact that many of its inhabitants work in Manhattan and New Jersey. It is the borough least known to New Yorkers, who vaguely think of it as the terminus of an inexpensive and popular ferry ride.
Extending like an arched spine down the six miles from St. George to La Tourette Park is a range of hills -- Todt Hill (409.239 feet) is the highest -- of greater elevation than found elsewhere on the Atlantic coast between Maine and Florida. East of the central ridge lies a long coastal plain. A less distinct range begins at the Narrows and extends westerly, with some southerly divergences, to the shore of Arthur Kill. The rest of the borough's 36,600 acres is flat country, and in the northwest, near Port Ivory, stretch lonely lowlands and fetid salt marshes.
Factories topped by high smoking chimneys are grouped along the north and the northeast shores. Farther inland modest middle-class communities, many of them independent towns and villages at the time of the consoli