About Willowbrook, Staten Island
The neighborhood of Willowbrook is located in the Mid-Island area of Staten Island. It is surrounded by the neighborhoods of New Springville, Port Richmond, Bulls Head, Manor Heights, and Westerleigh. Like many other neighborhoods on the island, Willowbrook was once all farmland. During the late 1700s, there were many factories in the area, which had all closed by the early 1900's. Nonetheless, the neighborhood was still mostly farmland, with a brook which flowed through the area. This brook is the reason behind the neighborhood's name.
By the end of December 1938, the State of New York acquired the land where the Willowbrook Golf Course once stood. The initial purpose of the purchase was to build the Willowbrook State Hospital, which was a big switch from the farmland that once flourished in the area. The hospital's intention was to house children with mental disabilities. By the time the Hospital was completed, however, it had been used by the United States Army for soldiers in World War II. When the war ended, it converted to the original plan and was renamed Willowbrook State School.
Over forty buildings were built, with a maximum capacity of 4,000 patients. Willowbrook State School was the largest state-run hospital for the mentally disabled in the United States. However, what the public didn't know was that the inside of the institution was horrific. By 1965, there were over 6,000 children residing in the institution. During the outbreaks of hepatitis in 1963 and 1966, medical studies were done, which consisted of the injection of the virus into healthy patients, so they could be monitored. A class-action lawsuit was filed against the State of New York in 1972, due to the overcrowding, abuse, and unhygienic conditions of the hospital. Conditions did not improve for many years, until the institution was finally closed in 1987 and demolished. The sprawling site was constrcted into the College of Staten Island Campus (Pictured below)
In 1956, Staten Island Community College was established in Sunnyside, with Richmond College nine years later in St. George. In 1976, the College of Staten Island was established from the merging of the two colleges. It had two campuses, which were located in the buildings of the merged colleges. By 1989, a portion of the land of the former Willowbrook State School was once again acquired by the City of New York. Four years later, a campus for the College of Staten Island opened on the land, making it the largest campus in New York City.
Today, Willowbrook is part of the suburban landscape of Staten Island. Much of Willowbrook's housing stock consists of post-World War 2, with a good deal of the new construction taking place after the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964. One of the more noticeable homes in Willowbrook, is the High-Ranch house. Using the typical ranch setup with all the homes living space on one floor the High Ranch places a lower level on the home. Some of the homes utilize the High- Ranches additional lower level space for garages, rec rooms, or additional apartments making them two family homes. This home style is abundant in the area and while it existed in the 1950's, the 1970's is where this home made its mark on the Staten Island landscape. There are also a good deal of semi-attached or duplex homes in the area that were also developed around the same time.
To the west of the College of Staten Island is Willowbrook Park. The 100 original acres of land began to be converted into a park when the New York City Park's Department took it over in 1929. One decade later, more land was purchased, which would have been used for the Willowbrook Parkway, had it been built. This addition made the park into its current 164 acres. The park has six tennis courts, five baseball fields, a barbecuing area, a hiking trail, a playground, and a dog run, which turns into an archery range at 9a, when the dogs are no longer allowed in the area.
There are several schools in the area. The public schools are P.S. 54 at 1060 Willowbrook Road and P.S. 60 at 55 Merrill Avenue. I.S. 72 is at 33 Ferndale Avenue, while I.S. 51 is at 20 Houston Street and the Staten Island Residential Center is at 1133 Forest Hill Road. The public high schools in the area are Susan E Wagner High School at 1200 Manor Road, the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies at 100 Essex Drive, and the Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School, which is also at Essex Drive. The Catholic schools in the area are St. Rita's School at 30 Wellbrook Avenue and Moore Catholic High School at 100 Merrill Avenue. There are many other private schools, such as Rabbi Jacob Joseph School at 400 Caswell and El Bethel Christian Academy at 910 Jewett Avenue. Then, of course, you have the College of Staten Island campus, which we spoke of earlier, at 2800 Victory Boulevard.
Willowbrook is served by three local buses and two express buses. The s62 travels from St. George to Travis, while the s61 travels to the Staten Island Mall, also from St. George. The s93, on the other hand, travels from Victory Boulevard to Bay Ridge. The x10 and x11 express buses travel into Manhattan. All of the local and express buses in Willowbrook use Victory Blvd. as their main road of travel.