During the early 1600’s, many Dutch immigrants began to settle in Great Kills. The Great Kills area was separated in two; Clarendon along the shoreline, with Newton above it. Later, the two were united and named “Giffords”, after Daniel Gifford, a local commissioner. By the late 19th century Great Kills Harbor the area was incorporated and given its current name, the name Great Kills was the result of the Anglicization of the words “Groote Kell” which, from Dutch, may translate to “many creeks”.
For centuries, Great Kills has been known greatly for its resources. It all started with the Native Americans, who resided in the area for quite some time before the Europeans usurped them. They would use the plants and animals for food, shelter, medicine, and other needs. Being so close to the water, it was easy to harvest oysters, which were abundant during the 19th century. During the middle of this century, many of Great Kills’ residents began to fish in the waters by Great Kills Park. In 1860, John J. Crooke purchased the peninsula which was in turn named “Crookes Point”. In 1929, it was again purchased by the City of New York, who also purchased the surrounding area. Their plan was to develop the area into a park, but due to the Great Depression, the construction had to wait, and the park was not opened until 1949. Great Kills Park became a national park in 1973 and has since then developed into 580 acres.
In Great Kills Park, you will find Nichols Great Kills Marina, which is popular among boaters and fishermen. The marina is owned and managed privately although it sits on federal property. Members of the marina have stated that it is well-maintained, the staff is very helpful, and theft is low due to the patrolling of security. Across the water, jutting out by Wiman Avenue, you will find Crescent Beach Park. Made up of about 67 acres, the beach consists of quite a few woodland, waterfront, and wetland areas along Tennyson Drive. Just as well, you have a great view of Great Kills Harbor, Raritan Bay, the Verrazano Bridge, and the skyline. Each season, the Crescent Beach Civic Association administers cleanups of the beach as well as host block parties for neighborhood residents each year.
To the north of Crescent Beach Park, you will find the 20-acre Seaside Wildlife Nature Park. In 1994, the area was filled with debris, abandoned cars, and garbage. With the help of the City of New York Department of Parks, the Department of Port Regalle, Condos Staten Island Sanitation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and many others, the wasteland soon became a beautiful park. Next to the entrance, you will find a 24-foot gazebo, which is accompanied by a new path built in 2009, equipped with benches, a drinking fountain, and a boardwalk. One year later, a playground was constructed in the park. Not far from the Seaside Wildlife Nature Park, you have the Port Regalle Condominium Complex, these waterfront condominiums overlook Great Kills Harbor out to the Raritan Bay.
Great Kills is home to many condominium complexes, including the Avon Condo development and 360 Barlow Ave Complex among others. Just northeast of the Seaside Wildlife Nature Park is Mansion Marina, located on Mansion Avenue, not only is the marina great for boating and fishing; it is also surrounded by many great places to eat. As you move down Mansion Ave, you will find the Great Kills Yacht Club sitting innocuously at the end of the street.
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