Place Category: Parks and Playgrounds
This park and the surrounding community are named for the sandbar that separates them from Great Kills Harbor. At low tide, this crescent-shaped sandbar emerges from the foot of Wiman Avenue toward Crooke’s Point in Gateway National Recreation Area. Much of this area was once marshland, used as a landfill in the 1930s and 1940s. Over time, erosion separated Crooke’s Point from the rest of Staten Island, and it became known as Crooke’s Island. It was reattached when Gateway was built. Today, Crescent Beach is comprised of several waterfront, wooded, and wetland sites on Tennyson Drive between Hales and Wiman Avenues.
In the mid-1600s, Dutch, French, and English colonists inhabited what is now the neighborhood of Great Kills. The first recorded Europeans here were French merchants Jacques Guyon and Jacques Baudouen. In 1675, each received a grant of 200 acres from the local governor, Sir Edmond Andros (1647-1714). A survey from one year later shows a house on the land granted to Guyon. When the English seized the New Amsterdam colony from the Dutch in 1664, they called the area along the shoreline Clarendon, and the inland portion Newtown. Newtown and Clarendon were eventually united under the name of Giffords, for Daniel Gifford, a local government official. The name of Great Kills, adopted when the village was incorporated in 1865, refers to the streams of the region; Kill, in this sense, is an Anglicization of the Dutch kell meaning “creek.”
By the mid-19th century, Great Kills had become a fishing community. In 1827, native oysters were first cultivated in nearby Prince’s Bay. Schooners would anchor at the mouth of Great Kills Harbor in order to harvest oysters, clams, and crabs. The waterfront location remains an important part of everyday life. Not only do residents boat, jet ski, and more, but the harbor still provides the most bountiful clamming waters in New York State. Sadly, due to pollution, the clams may only be harvested commercially and must be pasteurized before consumption.
Adjacent Wiman Avenue is named for Erastus Wiman (1834-1904), a notable resident of the area. He moved to New York from Canada in order to work at his employer’s local office, and he was taken with the natural beauty of Staten Island. Wiman lived in various places on the island, including Great Kills. An effective leader, he supported several transportation improvements throughout the borough, including the St. George Ferry Terminal and the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company (est. 1880).
In 1995, Parks acquired 26.9 acres of the Great Kills designated open space area from the Department of General Services. Over the next four years, the Department of Citywide Administration Services assigned Parks 40.731 additional acres for Crescent Beach. This large park offers magnificent views of Great Kills Harbor and Raritan Bay. From the sands of the beach, visitors can see the borough skyline and the Verrazano Bridge. The park’s grasslands and oak woods offer year-round sanctuary to various animals including egrets, great blue herons, ducks, geese, gulls, and terns. In season, monarch butterflies, short-eared owls, and snow buntings also live in the parklands, while the salt marsh is home to Diamond back terrapins, muscles, crabs, and snails. The Crescent Beach Civic Association conducts seasonal beach cleanups and hosts an annual block party for local residents. Crescent Beach is among the finest parks in New York, and protection will allow visitors to enjoy its spectacular beauty for years to come.
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