"There’s always the possibility, Staten Island being Staten Island," civil rights attorney Joel Berger told The New York Times in August, "that they won't indict."
Staten Island is New York City's most conservative borough -- the only one to vote Republican with any regularity. It's also known to strongly support law enforcement. And it is, by far, the city's whitest borough.
The death of Eric Garner, a black Staten Islander, in the clutch of a white New York police officer in the summer didn't result in any criminal charges against the latter. The grand jury that decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo was predominantly white -- but, according to a report from NBC New York, was more diverse than Richmond County (a.k.a. Staten Island) at large.
Most of the black population in Staten Island lives near the northern border -- closest to the other boroughs of New York. The map above measures how much more strongly the population is black than white; the pinker the area, the more predominantly black the populace. The site of Garner's death was Bay Street, in the borough's northeastern corner.
The borough doesn't look like the rest of the city in many ways, including the most literal. It's largely disconnected from New York's public transit system, and includes a much-higher proportion of suburb-like single-family homes than any other part of the city. In fact, on several occasions, there have been efforts to extract Staten Island from New York and have it become part of New Jersey -- to which it is much closer geographically.
Staten Island, as mentioned above, is also the most Republican borough. It recently reelected Rep. Michael Grimm (R) to Congress (despite his having been indicted). Comparing it to neighboring Brooklyn in presidential voting over time, the difference is stark; Staten Island is consistently far more Republican.
As our Aaron Blake noted Thursday morning, the Garner case is (so far) much less politically polarized than the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Had the tragic death of Garner happened in another borough, however, it's completely valid to wonder if the decision from the grand jury would have been the same.