If you enjoy exploring New York City, then Todt Hill is a must. This residential hilltop neighborhood is certainly one of the most, if not the most, exclusive, secluded areas in the five boroughs of New York. Todt Hill, with an elevation of 410 feet, is the highest natural point on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States south of Maine.
Staten Island is also the least populous of New York's five boroughs, with under 500,000 residents. This much lower population density and its very hilly terrain create some very rural and remote feeling areas.
I love hill and mountain tops, and Todt Hill had been on my list for quite some time, having only passed through the area once before a long time ago. On this trip, I explored the backroads and (along with Forest Hills Gardens, Bayside, Queens and Dyker Heights, Brooklyn) found it to have some of the most extraordinary private homes in New York City - McMansions abound with topiary, bricked semicircular driveways, and fountains. See my photo gallery here.
Most of Staten Island has a decidedly suburban feel - driving there is more akin to nearby New Jersey than New York City, with much of the developed areas of the borough revealing a plethora of strip malls and other visual clutter.
Do not be misled, however. Staten Island has some of the most beautiful natural and historic environments in New York City - places like St. Andrews Church, historic Richmond Town, Snug Harbor, the Museum of Tibetan Art, the Kreischer Mansion, The Crimson Beech (residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), yacht clubs, waterways and estuaries, the Latourette House (1836), Staten Island Botanical Garden, and the Fresh Kills landfill. This massive landfill, opened in 1947 and closed in 2001, has been cleaned up and is now undergoing development into a park larger than Central Park - plans include a bird-nesting island, boardwalks, soccer and baseball fields, bridle paths and a 5,000-seat stadium.
But, if like me, you really like lofty pursuits, head for Dongan Hills, Grymes Hill, Lighthouse Hill and Todt Hill :)