Our ongoing Portfolio series showcases bodies of work by artists inspired by or working in the city, often accompanied by a statement from the artist expounding on the images presented in the slideshow. This portfolio takes a slightly different tack. As part of the Architectural League / Urban Omnibus project Typecast, we asked five photographers to explore the architectural typology of “towers-in-the-park” by documenting the buildings, residents, street life, and surroundings of five study sites: Co-op City (Baychester and Eastchester, The Bronx), Sea Rise and Sea Park East (Coney Island, Brooklyn), Todt Hill Houses (Castleton Corners, Staten Island), Electchester (Pomonok, Queens), and Alfred E. Smith Houses (Two Bridges, Manhattan).
One of the initial goals of the Typecast project is to investigate the unique social experience of each of these places — as opposed to an exclusive focus on their shared physical characteristics — by calling attention to site-specific histories and raising questions about what assets the typology offers that might be hidden in plain sight. In order to do that, the five photo essays seek to demonstrate how residents and neighbors negotiate and navigate both the built and the open space of these building complexes.
In this series of photographs, Ben Stechschulte documents the Todt Hill Houses in Castleton Corners, Staten Island. Images from all five series will be on view in the Architectural League / Urban Omnibus booth at the IDEAS CITY Festival StreetFest on Saturday, May 4th. Click here to learn more about Typecast, or to see photographs of four other study sites. But first, a brief introduction to the Todt Hill Houses.
The Todt Hill Houses, designed by architect H.I. Feldman, consist of seven, six-story buildings on 13.34 acres with 502 apartments that house some 1,081 people. The complex is adjacent to the Staten Island Expressway, in the low-density neighborhood of Castleton Corners, a largely middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhood of Staten Island. The hill upon which is sits is the highest point on the eastern seaboard south of Maine. There is an abundance of undeveloped parkland nearby.
One local and a few express bus lines to Manhattan are the only public transportation. The neighborhood is mostly car dependent. There are a small number of neighborhood retail and service businesses within walking distance, but most employment or commercials needs require a car or bus trip.
The Todt Hill Houses were completed in 1950, in a period of time when the neighborhood, the borough, and the region saw significant expansion after World War II. The development predated the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which sped up development on Staten Island even more. The Todt Hill Houses are generally regarded as some of the safer housing developments under NYCHA control. — D.R.