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Shore Acres, Staten Island

Shore Acres  is a neighborhood in eastern Staten Island, between Rosebank and Fort Wadsworth.  The area remains today a secluded enclave of pricey, waterfront homes.  The neighborhood's generally agreed boundaries are Bay Street to the West, Nautilus Street to the North, New York Bay to the East and Arthur Von Briesen Park to the South.

Topographical Map of Shore Acres (1906-1913)
New York Public Library

Arthur Von Briesen
Library of Congress

The serene Von Briesen Park is 12.77 acres.  The site of Von Briesen Park was the former estate of Arthur Von Briesen (1843-1920).  Von Briesen was a native of Germany, a sergeant during the Civil War and New York lawyer.  In 1876, Von Briesen helped found the German Legal Aid Society which provided free legal services to poor German immigrants in New York.  After rising to the position of President of the society, Von Briesen argued for the broadening of benefits to all immigrants and in 1896 the society changed their name to the Legal Aid Society.  The Legal Aid Society in New York City is the nation's oldest and largest provider of legal services to the needy.  Von Briesen purchased the property that is today the park in 1901 and named the estate Gernda, a German term for "wishing to be there."  During the 19th Century, the area was owned by Henry Alexander and served as a farming estate.  After Von Briesen's death in 1920, the estate remained vacant until 1945 when his heirs donated the land to New York City Parks.  The extant structures onsite were demolished by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to prevent vandalism.  The park opened to the public in 1949 and received a renovation in 2001.

Shore Acres Road gateposts
New York Public Library

The Shore Acres development was accessed at Shore Acres Road.  At the intersection of Bay Street and Shore Acres Road cobblestone gateposts remain, further indication it was once part of a private development.  Within Shore Acres is a lake known as Lake Alexandria and Lake Alexandre in the early 1900s for the early estate in the area.  The Lake remains today however it is privately owned and inaccessible to the public. 

The Lake at Shore Acres
New York Public Library

Cornelius Kolff at Staten Island
Chamber of Commerce dinner (1933)
Staten Island Historical Society
The area of Shore Acres began to see development in the 1930s.  Leading the development was former President of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and prominent real estate developer Cornelius Geertruyus Kolff (1860-1950).  Kolff was known as "Staten Island's most obedient servant."  Kolff began in the real estate business in 1893 with his partner Louis W. Kaufmann.  Kolff sold the former Meyer Estate in nearby Rosebank to Jesuits for the creation of Mount Manresa.  In addition to Shore Acres, Kolff was responsible for the developments of Woods of Arden, Bement Estates, Hillcrest Park in Great Kills, Longview in Grymes Hill, Harbor View, Elting Park and Emerson Hill.  Kolff claimed credit for the naming of Emerson hill for the family of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The village at the foot of Emerson Hill, known as Dutch Farms, was renamed Concord for Emerson's hometown Concord, Massachusetts.  Kolff also served as an expert real estate appraiser for the City of New York, and served as President of the Staten Island Historical Society.  Lastly, Kolff was instrumental in the acquiring of waterfront in the St. George and Clifton neighborhoods in the 1920s to build municipal piers.  Kolff himself resided in Shore Acres, at 15 Harborview Place.

Staten Island Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff (1972)
New York Public Library

In 1951, a Staten Island steam ferry was named for Kolff and used by the Department of Transportation until 1987 when the Department of Corrections used it as overflow inmate housing and renamed the Walter B. Keane.

Staten Island Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff  (1982)
Theodore W. Scull


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