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Artists Hope To Revitalize St. George, Stapleton Areas

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Members of the Downtown Staten Island Council have been talking about revitalizing Stapleton and St. George for quite some time. As NY1's Shawna Ryan reports, some say the best way to do that is to find a new artistic appreciation.

Cynthia Von Buhler has a gallery in one of the most sought-after neighborhoods of Manhattan. She moved to the Island two years ago and now she's ready to bring her gallery to St. George.

“I have a studio in the Meatpacking District and now it’s a hot neighborhood and I’m giving up that studio to be in Staten Island,” says Von Buhler.

Von Buhler's work is part of an exhibit that opened at the Staten Island Museum Friday.

She says she's part of a movement of artists who hope to revive the downtown neighborhoods like St. George and Stapleton.

“I think that the potential is there, definitely, and there is a community of young people and we’ve all been getting together. We talk about what we can do to make it better,” says Von Buhler.

But some artists say it’s not easy to get connections with financial institutions and brokers to secure a gallery space. And that's what members of the Downtown Staten Island Council hope to change.

“That’s part of what we're here for as a business development group,” says Downtown Staten Island Council executive director Robert Cross. “We have representatives from banks, insurance residential, commercial brokers. We can definitely bridge that gap and we're trying to do that as we speak.

A study released by the Center for an Urban Future called "Staten Island 2020" suggests the Island could benefit from bringing artists downtown.

Stapleton Gallery owner Jeff Kolasinkski agrees.

“Before they were really developed the artists were people who situated themselves and led the way for the development that followed,” says Kolasinkski.

Artists say the spaces available on the island rival ones in the Big Apple.

“There's a lot of potential here,” says artist Scott LoBaido. “I’m excited. I still will have shows in Manhattan, but this is my home. I mean, look at this tremendous space I have. It’s an artist's dream.”

“If you look in SoHo, artists have to leave because the rents are so high. Staten Island is a find and I think more people will come here,” says Von Buhler.

But it looks like Manhattan’s loss is Staten Island’s gain.

— Shawna Ryan
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