Building community at the Staten Island MakerSpace
In a 6,000-square-foot workshop underneath the Staten Island Railway on the borough’s north shore, sculptors DB Lampman and Scott Van Campen are attempting to build something: community.
“We’re trying to establish a new normal ,” Van Campen said.
The married couple officially opened the Staten Island MakerSpace, a nonprofit workshop, a year after their Stapleton studio was flooded with more than 3 feet of water during Superstorm Sandy.
Following the clean up — and some $80,000 in damages — the couple proposed the creation of a business incubator at the metalshop, eventually getting sponsorship from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
With access to a plasma cutter, sewing machines, saws and various welders, the goal of the Staten Island MakerSpace is simple: give people a place to make something.
“It’s about giving back to Staten Island,” Van Campen said.
Eight months in, the MakerSpace is adding amenities. Lampman and Van Campen hope to complete construction on new sewing, computer and conference rooms in the next month.
“Nice, new clean offices — and a sewing lab and a computer lab — really helps bump us up and make it look more professional,” Van Campen said. “We’re hoping to attract more members in the tech area.”
The space already boasts a 3D printer and scanner. On a recent visit, Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo was scanned at the MakerSpace and later given a black plastic “action figure” of himself.
The MakerSpaces hosts classes — Women, Wine and Welding is a popular choice — and offers membership with access to the metal and wood shops, private studios and storage.
Some members are Islanders, but others make the commute from other boroughs.
“We have a lot to offer that other places in Brooklyn might not,” Lampman said.
Artist Kevin Mahoney, 34, became a member when the MakerSpace opened last fall. Part of the space’s allure are the wood- and metal-working equipment — which he can use to make tools to help him with his street art.
“It’s giving me control over my entire process,” said Mahoney, who also works as a data solutions architect.
At a hackathon hosted by the Staten Island MakerSpace in April, Mahoney and his team came up with the idea for Com-Mon. Short for “community monitor,” Com-Mon would use old computer monitors to broadcast useful information to the city’s homeless population, such as weather alerts and the location of shelters.
“This could potentially do a lot of good,” Mahoney said. The team has already developed a prototype and reached out to companies that might discard and destroy old computers. “Without the MakerSpace, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Mahoney said the MakerSpace has also become a hub for the local artistic community. This is important to Lampman and Van Campen, especially as the borough faces changes from development.
“Places like what we’re trying to do here, where you can actually do creative things — I think that that brings the community together more so than a giant wheel,” Van Campen said.
If you go
The Staten Island MakerSpace is located at 450 Front St. in Stapleton. The space is accessible from Unit B on Thompson Street. Pricing for membership and classes vary, visit SIMakerSpace.com or call 718-273-3951.
Here’s a map of maker spaces in the city.
View Maker spaces in New York City in a larger map
Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders