The CSI Archives & Special Collections collects material documenting politics, civic life, and local history on Staten Island since the consolidation with New York City in 1898. Listed below are the highlights of our collections; a complete listing of our collections accompanied by online finding aids can be found in the “Research Assistance” portion of the website.
Political Manuscript Collections
First elected in 1956, Republican John J. Marchi (1921-2009) served in the New York State Senate until 2006 and was also a New York City mayoral candidate in 1969 and 1973. During his tenure he served as Chairman of the Affairs of the City of New York Committee and the Finance Committee. Marchi was named Assistant Majority Whip in 2003 and was also recognized by the National Conference of State Legislatures as the longest serving legislator (at all levels) in America. The collection contains correspondence, reports, news clippings, press releases, legislative bills and extensive subject files. There is also extensive material related to Marchi’s mayoral campaigns. The subject files are particularly strong on issues such as Staten Island Secession, Charter Commission for Staten Island, the South Richmond Plan, Abortion, Temporary State Commission on New York City School Governance, Taxation, Transportation, Education and the Fresh Kills Landfill.
Assemblyman Eric N. Vitaliano was first elected to the Assembly in 1982. In January 1994, he was appointed Chairman of the Standing Committee on Governmental Employees. During his tenure, Vitaliano served as chair of the Subcommittee on Interstate Cooperation and the Subcommittee on Court Operations. Vitaliano also served as Vice-Chairman of the Joint Legislative Commission on Toxic Substances and Hazardous Wastes and was the senior New York City member of the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management. Vitaliano left the Assembly in 2001 upon being elected a judge of the civil court in Richmond County. The collection includes correspondence, reports, newsletters, news clippings, press releases, photographs, videos and memorabilia.
Assemblywoman Elizabeth A. Connelly was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1973 as the first woman from Staten Island elected to public office. Connelly was appointed Chairwoman of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse in 1977, becoming the first woman Democrat ever to chair a standing Assembly Committee. Connelly was also interested in environmental issues and her activities in closing the Fresh Kills Landfill and in protecting the Staten Island environment. Connelly was appointed to chair the Committee on Standing Committees in 1993 and was appointed Speaker Pro Tempore in 1995, the highest leadership position ever held by a woman in the New York State Assembly. Connelly retired in 2000 as the longest serving woman in the history of the New York State Legislature. The collection contains correspondence, newsletters, reports, press releases, news clippings, public hearing testimony, photographs and awards.
Staten Island Literary Material
Theodora DuBois (1890-1986) was the author of popular juvenile fiction. Her family had long-standing connections to Staten Island and she was a resident for much of her adult life. The collection consists mainly of DuBois’s writings (including autobiographical materials) and publications. It also includes genealogical materials relating to the DuBois, Abbot, Brenton, McCormick, Hall and Henderson families and a biography of DuBois written by her children. In addition, the collection includes personal photographs, family correspondence, wills, journals, research notebooks and scrapbooks.
John Sampson was born in Liverpool, England, in 1908, and immigrated to Staten Island with his family in 1920. Sampson pursued a career in journalism. From 1921-1924, he published his own newssheet, The Star. From 1924-1928, Sampson worked for the Staten Island Leader and Staten Island Advance, covering local news and the waterfront. From 1929-1937, he worked a ship news reporter for the New York American. Sampson worked for British newspapers and news organizations from 1938 until his retirement in 1974, largely as an American correspondent. He also wrote fiction, and ultimately self-published eight novels and one volume of aphorisms and reflections from 1972-2001. As Sampson was active in writing and journalism for nearly eighty years, the collection contains a wealth of material related to those activities. His correspondence, reading notes and memo books also give insight into his interests, views, and personal and professional relationships.
Staten Island Civic Life
The Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is an environmental conservation advocacy group dedicated to the preservation of Staten Island’s natural resources and heritage. The organization was founded to preserve Pine Oak Woods, now known as the Clay Pit Pond State Park Preserve on Staten Island’s south shore. In the decades since, the group has successfully lobbied for the addition of thousand of acres to Staten Island’s park system, including Blue Heron Park, Kingfisher Park and the Greenbelt.
Waterfront Watch was an organization of environmentalists from the South Shore of Staten Island. Their purpose was to fight the passage of the South Richmond Development Corporation Bill. Ultimately, the bill failed to pass the New York State Assembly and was never reintroduced. Collection materials cover the years 1971 to 1974, with the bulk of materials from February 1973 to May 1973. The collection contains correspondence, publications, lobbying packets, financial records, photographs, maps, and news clippings. The publications file includes position papers, fact sheets, lobbying packets, and a report written by the Waterfront Watch. In addition, the collection has an extensive news clippings file on the South Richmond Bill.
Willowbrook State School
The College of Staten Island collects items that document the history of the Willowbrook State School, which occupied from 1948 to 1987 the campus now owned by CSI. The Archives & Special Collections do not hold any administrative or medical records from the Willowbrook State School, but rather archival materials of historical significance. Researchers have access to a wealth of printed material concerning the operation of the Willowbrook State School, including: Giraldo Rivera’s book and television report on Willowbrook, oral histories, dissertations, reports, and other published material. For further information, please see the Guide to Willowbrook State School Resources at the CSI Library, located under Research Assistance.
The Benevolent Society for Retarded Children was founded as the parents’ association of the Willowbrook State School in 1949. The Benevolent Society for Retarded Children became part of the New York State Association for Retarded Children (NYSARC) in 1959. The collection includes minutes, annual financial reports, and annual luncheon programs. Most of the records are from the 1970s and 1980s, but annual luncheon programs are available for most years.
Dr. David Goode is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the College of Staten Island. He has strong research interests in the field of Developmental Disabilities and in the Willowbrook State School. The collection includes brochures, programs, and articles related to the Willowbrook State School and related issues. The collection also includes reprint copies of the text of the 1975 consent decree.
The Grossman Collection relates to two main topics: Grossman’s testimony in the Willowbrook State School legal case (Parisi, et.al., vs. New York State) and his chairmanship of the American Association on Mental Deficiency’s Terminology and Classification Committee. The Willowbrook related materials primarily consist of litigation records; however, there are also materials Grossman probably received on one of his visits to the school, as well as material he collected after his participation in the legal case had ended. The remainder of the Grossman Collection is primarily composed of drafts of the AAMD’s Classification in Mental Retardation.
Diana McCourt became involved in the efforts to expose and improve the conditions at Willowbrook State School after her daughter, Nina, was placed at the institution in 1971. The collection contains materials related not only to these efforts but also to the hepatitis program and the lawsuits against New York State over Willowbrook and compliance with the 1975 consent order.
Dr. Mike Wilkins worked as a staff physician at the Willowbrook State School during the early 1970’s. He worked with Dr. William Bronston to try to improve conditions at the school and was dismissed for his activities in this regard. The evening of his dismissal, Wilkins used his key to give Geraldo Rivera, a young ABC reporter, access to the school for what would be the filming of The Last Great Disgrace. After his dismissal, Wilkins continued to advocate for change at the institution. This collection includes video recordings, programs, and articles related to Willowbrook State School and the impact of the consent decree.
This collection contains clippings of newspaper articles related to the Willowbrook State School. The collection’s extent is approximately 2.5 linear feet. The clippings are arranged chronologically and cover the period from September 1947 – November 2000. The collection is searchable by article title, publication title and author. There is also a search keyword index of the names of individuals and organization prominently featured in the news articles.
The Archives & Special Collections holds a strong reference collection of Staten Island history, including standard histories such as Holden, Lang and Davis, and Morris. The Archives & Special Collections also holds a full run of the Staten Island Historian, the journal of the Staten Island Historical Society. In addition to books and other printed material, the Archives & Special Collections holds a strong collection of pamphlets. These printed tracts address myriad issues pertaining to Staten Island. The pamphlet collection includes copies of Landmark Designation Reports concerning historic places on Staten Island. All pamphlets can be found through the CUNY+ catalog. The Archives & Special Collections also spearheaded an effort to collect and document the community response to the events of September 11, 2001. This collection includes speeches, photographs, ephemera, and newspaper clippings. This documentation project can be found under the documentation projects portion of the website. The Reading Room also offers a number of secondary sources on the New York City area, and microfilm of local newspapers is available.