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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.
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