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Vision for Fresh Kills (Source: NYC Dept of Parks & Recreation)

Freshkills Landfill in Staten Island was established in 1948 on land that was originally tidal creeks and coastal marsh. It was the largest landfill in the world, second now only to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By the time of its forced closure in 2001 by the EPA, the site had reached 2200 acres, almost three times the size of Central Park, with a peak taller than the Statue of Liberty. Unbeknownst to the general public, Freshkills is also the largest man-made structure on earth, surpassing the Great Wall of China (by volume)! It is also a revenue generator, giving the city $12 million a year through the sale of methane gas emissions to Con Edison and National Grid.

Fresh Kills Landfill 1990 (Source Stephen Ferry/Getty Images)

In 1999, the New York Dept. of City Planning launched an international design competition for a master plan to convert the site into New York’s largest park. New York based landscape architecture firm, Field Operations, was chosen. The lead architect, James Corner, is the same man who designed the High Line. To be built over course of the next thirty years, the park will consist of five areas, each with a unique character and architectural program. NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation describes the framework of the plan as integrating “three separate systems–programming, wildlife, and circulation–into one cohesive and dynamic unit.”

This ambitious public works reclamation project addresses the contrast between natural and engineered aestheticism, the contradiction of an urban ecology, a direct physical dialogue about our human impact on the environment, the complex issues of sustainability and preservation, and the appropriation of public space.

Freshkills Superimposed on Lower Manhattan would stretch from South Ferry to 26th St.

What this means for us laymen: Spectacular views of Manhattan, recreational opportunities (bike paths, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing), unique public space for art   – like old barges repurposed as floating gardens, and wildlife habitats. If you are interested, Untapped New York will be going this Saturday, June 27th to check out what has been constructed so far – there are still spots open if you sign up here on the NYC Parks & Recreation website. Also on their site: nerdy information on the cool ecological restoration techniques they are using!

UPDATE: Pictures from the Untapped Trip to Fresh Kills!

11 Comments

  1. […] fact that our garbage gets trucked hundreds of miles to other states, the fact that the  Fresh Kills landfill is being covered and transformed into a park. But when we no longer have visible symbols of our wastefulness, will we […]

  2. […] fact that our garbage gets trucked hundreds of miles to other states, the fact that the  Fresh Kills landfill is being covered and transformed into a park. But when we no longer have visible symbols of our wastefulness, will we […]

  3. […] fact that our garbage gets trucked hundreds of miles to other states, the fact that the  Fresh Kills landfill is being covered and transformed into a park. But when we no longer have visible symbols of our wastefulness, will we […]

  4. […] waste generated per day by the city to landfills located out of state. With the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill in 2001, New York needs to develop innovative solutions to manage its refuse and go beyond the […]

  5. […] used to be the largest landfill in the world and is being converted into a park. Untapped last took the tour 2 years ago and there have been tons of development since. Spots are limited so sign up by writing on […]

  6. […] city’s only remaining commercial marine salvage yard is located in Rossville, Staten Island, near the Fresh Kills Landfill  which Untapped took a tour of in the midst of its conversion into a park.  As any New Yorker […]

  7. Hi folks,

    Just a word about the smell–there really isn’t one, believe it or not–except for the occassional whiff that blows over from New Jersey. Landfill odors are caused by decaying garbage that is handled and buried at the site. As no new garbage is being deposited at Fresh Kills, odors from landfill operations have diminished. The buried waste does produce an odorous landfill gas (LFG), but since 1982 most of these gases have been collected and controlled by a gas collection system that produces natural gas for use on Staten Island. Some gas does escape from the system into the open air at Fresh Kills, but the amount of this gas is below New York State regulatory requirements for public safety.

    North and South Mounds underwent final capping and closure in the early 1990s. Final capping and closure are currently underway on the other two mounds (East and West mounds). As final cover continues to be layered on the mounds, gas emissions will continue to diminish until, essentially, all the gas will be captured by the system.

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is certainly the monster of all the world’s trash heaps, but in terms of regulated landfills, the largest in the country (possibly in the world) now that Freshkills has closed is Puente Hills Landfill in California. But even this takes on 3,912,262 annual tons of waste–less than half of what Fresh Kills was accepting at its peak!

    Looking forward to seeing you out on our tour. Make sure to check out our blog, too: http://www.freshkillspark.wordpress.com

    • Michelle Young says:

      @FreshKillsPark – thanks for the info and feedback! I came across the blog when researching for the post, what a great idea. Very excited for the tour on Saturday!

    • Hi folks,

      Glad you’re interested in our project! Just a word about the stink–there is none, believe it or not–except the occassional whiff floating by from New Jersey. Landfill odors come from decaying garbage that is handled and buried at the site. As no new garbage is being deposited at Fresh Kills, odors from landfill operations have diminished. The buried waste does produce an odorous landfill gas (LFG), but since the 80s, most of these gases have been collected and controlled to harvest natural gas for use on Staten Island.

      North and South Mounds underwent final capping and closure in the early 1990s. Final capping and closure are currently underway on East and West Mounds. As final cover continues to be layered on the mounds, gas emissions will continue to diminish until, essentially, all the gas will be captured by the system.

      Also, a minor note–our partnering design firm is Field Operations.

      Looking forward to meeting you all on Saturday’s tour. If you want to know more about what we do check out our blog: http://www.freshkillspark.wordpress.com

  8. brett1211 says:

    Michelle, we need to know if it smells…

  9. Michelle Young says:

    eventually no…half the garbage mounds were covered by an impermeable cap in 1997, on top of which will be 6 other layers. The rest should be covered by 2014. if you’re really curious, the “about the site” tab on the NY Parks & Recreation site has cool diagrams and descriptions. I guess we’ll find out on saturday how much it still smells! :)

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