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'Shaolin Yacht Club' Site Documents Stories of Staten Island Ferry Riders

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 7, 2014 5:24pm
 Former Staten Islander Maggie Vasconi started a website "Shaolin Yacht Club" featured photos and profiles of Staten Islanders and riders of the ferry.
Shaolin Yacht Club
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STATEN ISLAND — Only Staten Islanders need apply for admission into this club.

Proud former Staten Island native Maggie Vasconi — who once joked that her and her friends' regular commutes on the Staten Island Ferry made them members of an exclusive "yacht club" — has been documenting the faces of all of her fellow club members through her website the "Shaolin Yacht Club."

"I wanted to just let [Staten Island] speak for itself," said Vasconi, 24, who named the club in honor of Wu-Tang Clan's nickname for Staten Island. "I'm just going to show it. I don't want it to be a spectacle."

Vasconi's website and Tumblr account posts portraits of commuters, along with a short interview with them — a type of Humans of New York for the forgotten borough.

She said the Staten Island Ferry is the perfect cross-section of the varied residents of the borough, all headed to the same place.

"It has the most diverse group of people going to the same location at the same time," Vasconi said.

Vasconi spends time with her subjects, trying to find out what makes them unique.

So far, after launching two months ago, Vasconi has posted photos and stories about artists, the founder of the Staten Island MakerSpace, a digital marketer and some rockers headed to last month's "Punk Island" festival.

The response, she said, has been amazing. Vasconi, who goes by the nom de plume Andrew J. or Die, has gotten emails from former islanders all over the country excited about the project and from current borough residents asking to be featured.

"Staten Island really has such a close knit community," she said.

"I think if somebody started a website [in another borough], nobody would reach out to them and say 'I'm from Manhattan too.' With Staten Island, people actually email me saying 'I want to join the yacht club. I want to do that.'"

Vasconi, who grew up in the borough but now lives in Brooklyn, is in talks with a videographer from France who wants to help add videos of Staten Islanders.

"It's helped me appreciate Staten Island more," she said.