Great Kills: Gateway National Recreation Area

Great Kills
Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

Great Kills is part of the Staten Island unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. Gateway has three geographical units. The other two are in New Jersey and Queens. The three units frame the ‘gateway’ to New York Harbor.

I grew up on Staten Island and my family visited Great Kills Park frequently. My Dad had a permit to travel the park road all the way out to Crooke’s Point. We’d walk the beach from there, examining razor clam shells, horseshoe crabs and other things that washed up on the shore.

Great Kills

Or we’d walk the sandy path on the other side of the parking lot. We’d pick sour cherries from the big tree there, which my grandmother made into a syrup. Sometimes, we’d go to a field in another section to watch people fly model airplanes.

Crooke’s Point is named for the original landowner. John J Crooke, a businessman, built a home at the far end of the peninsula in 1860. Erosion split the point off from the mainland in 1916.

New York City bought Crooke’s land in the late 1920s to build a park. The Great Depression delayed those plans and the park opened in 1949. Gateway National Recreation Area added Great Kills Park to the Staten Island Unit in 1973.

In the 1940s, the city reconnected Crooke’s Point to the mainland with landfill to form Great Kills Harbor. This landfill contained medical waste which contributed to high radioactive radium levels discovered in 2005. The park is still decontaminating this area.


Location: 201 Buffalo St, Staten Island, NY 10306
Designation: National Recreation Area
Date Designated/Established: 1949 (City Park), 1973 (NRA)
Date of my visit: October 31, 2020

Great Kills

10 thoughts on “Great Kills: Gateway National Recreation Area

  1. Anonymous

    Enjoyed that last photo, Theresa. I’d go to the park for that. 🙂 Interesting about the medical waste. One can only wonder why it was dumped and the laws that allowed it to happen. –Curt

    1. Staten Island has a long history of being a dumping ground with little regard for environmental impact. The other side of the island was once home to the world’s largest garbage dump. When I was a kid, if the wind was blowing from that direction, you could smell it from miles away. It grew to the size of a small mountain range. They dumped the refuse from 9-11 there and that was the last of it, I think. The city has been working toward turning it into a park for the last two decades.

  2. Interesting post. It’s wonderful you’ve been able to maintain a connection with this place. What is being done about the contamination? Are people allowed to walk where it is contaminated?

    1. I don’t know, but I’m sure they are doing their best to clean it up. The city has been preoccupied with covid and the NPS has only recently had their backlog in maintenance funding addressed.

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