A predominantly Black neighborhood, Park Hill is home to the most densely populated Liberian community outside of Africa, making it known as “Little Liberia.” During the 1990s and 2000s, when the Liberian Civil War forced inhabitants to flee their home country, the population in Park Hill grew dramatically. As of 2011, its population was 19,746.
New York-based hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan has roots in Park Hill (five out of its nine members were born in the neighborhood), and has often referenced the Park Hill projects and surrounding neighborhoods of Stapleton and Clifton in their lyrics. In their song “Gravel”, Park Hill is called “the house on haunted hill.” In his 2009 film entitled Killa Hill: The Park Hill Documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Gerald “Gee Gee” Barclay confronted issues of urban crime and violence caused by the area’s crack cocaine epidemic of the late 1980s.
Despite its history of heavy crime and drug abuse in the past, particularly in the Park Hill Apartments on Vanderbilt Avenue, the neighborhood has been steadily improving its reputation over the years, in large part due to active social and political community involvement.
A notable literary and artistic scene has marked the area in the past. Henry David Thoreau spent summers at the Emerson House on Tompkins Avenue during the 1840s; while here, he wrote many letters to Ralph Waldo Emerson (another figure that spent a fair amount of time in SI), and tutored Judge William Emerson’s children. Commercial artist and illustrator artist Alice Sargent Johnson was born in 1882 on Staten Island and died in Park Hill in 1951.
Popular culinary establishments in and around the area include Tony’s Brick Oven for a classic New York slice, and Bayou, a Cajun restaurant serving specialty dishes like Maple Peach BBQ Pork, Seafood Jambalaya, and Banana Caramel Fried Cheesecake.
Park Hill is served by the S51/81 buses along Bay Street, the S52 and S78 buses along Tompkins Avenue, the S74/84 buses along Targee Street/Van Duzer Street, and the S76/86 buses along Vanderbilt Avenue.
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