Great Kills is a neighborhood within New York City's borough of Staten Island. It is located on the island's South Shore, and according to many local geographers, it is the South Shore's northernmost community. Kill is an archaic Dutch word with various popular translations, including "creek" and "channel;" indeed, many small streams dot the neighborhood, and the name can be interpreted as meaning that a great number of such streams can be found there.
The eastern half of what is today known as Great Kills was originally named Cairedon, while the western half was referred to as Newtown. Later, both came to be known by the single name of Giffords, after Daniel Gifford, a local commissioner and road surveyor — this name surviving in Giffords Lane, the main north-south thoroughfare in what was formerly called Newtown; the Great Kills station on the Staten Island Railway is at the southern end of this street, in the heart of the community's business district. The present name of Great Kills was informally adopted in 1865. Another former place name associated with the area is Honeywood; its precise origin is uncertain, but it was the name of the telephone exchange that served Great Kills and many other upper South Shore communities from the 1920s through the late 1950s.
At the southeastern corner of the neighborhood is the Staten Island Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which was formerly known as Great Kills Park, and is often still so called by Staten Islanders today. Immediately to the west of this is a harbor and marina, home of the Great Kills Yacht Club. Hotels and highly-acclaimed seafood restaurants once dominated the shoreline, but steadily increasing pollution of the nearby waters forced most of them out of business by the middle of the 20th Century; the last surviving noted shoreline restaurant of that era, the Shoals Restaurant, was destroyed in a 1968 arson fire, which also claimed the life of an elderly caretaker who had been living on the premises. Currently, the Marina Cafe, and its counterpart, the Marina Grand, are situated along Mansion Avenue. The Marina Cafe is one of Staten Island's most well-known restaurants.
Like many other Staten Island neighborhoods, Great Kills experienced massive population growth in the latter third of the 20th Century, largely catalyzed by the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge providing easy access from Brooklyn in November 1964. Many of the new arrivals have been Italian-Americans, and today they constitute the neighborhood's largest ethnic group. Other ethnicities include Egyptian Copts in Great Kills, the vast majority of whom are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Hylan Boulevard, which runs North and South along Staten Island's East Coast, perpendicular to Nelson Avenue and Richmond Avenue, has become one of the island's busiest commercial strips; approximately one mile long, the northeastern half of this strip is considered part of Great Kills while the southwestern half is deemed to be in Eltingville. Another border between Great Kills and Eltingville is Armstrong Avenue, with Great Kills on the eastern side of this north-south road.
This town is also home to Great Kills Little League, one of the 8 little leagues on Staten Island. The ZIP Code for Great Kills is 10308, and actor Rick Schroder lived in the community as a child, as did actress Alyssa Milano.
Great Kills is also home to FDNY Engine Company 162/Ladder Company 82 and Battalion 23, quarters on Nelson Ave and Myra S. Barnes I.S.24 one of Staten Island's middle schools. Firefighter Scott Davidson, lost in the 9-11 attacks, attended I.S. 24.
The intersection of Nelson Avenue and Amboy Road, (pictured in this Wikipedia listing), is one of the Great Kills neighborhood's older commercial centers. For close to thirty years or more, the intersection has been home to the Village Maria Pizza shop, argued by some Staten Islanders to be the best pizza in the borough. Around the corner on Nelson Avenue, in the 1970s, an elderly Italian man named Domenick was one of the last original old-time barbers in the neighborhood.