Freshkills Park Blog

Robin Nagle on the City’s relationship to Sanitation

Thanks to the huge crowd that came out to Robin Nagle’s talk in our lecture series two weeks back.  Standing in front of a fascinating slideshow featuring many of the men and women who keep New York City clean (or–more than that–keep New York City alive, as artist Mierle Ukeles famously phrased it), Robin discussed her academic approach to Sanitation, the stigma we attach to the work San Men and Women do and some hypotheses as to how those stigmas develop and why they stick.  It was a passionate and heartfelt address about the value of Sanitation workers that also included some explanation of the mechanics of Sanitation vehicles and the skills required to operate them.  Thanks go to Robin, most of all, for volunteering her insights to the appreciative crowd.

You can stream the entire audio of the talk, below, or download it directly as an MP3 (74 minutes, 68MB).

December 21, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robin Nagle on Loving Fresh Kills


Last Saturday’s downpour didn’t faze the hardy group of about 30 that came out to hear Robin Nagle’s talk on top of North Mound at the Freshkills Park site.  Our coming together “not in protest but in appreciation” for what was buried beneath our feet, in spite of the rain, was strong foundation for Robin’s claim that we can love a landfill.  Thanks to all who came out, and, of course, to Robin.

If you weren’t able to make it, or if you were and are hungry for more of Robin’s insights into the world of sanitation work, Slate published this week of her journal entries in 2004, which is a great read.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , | 3 Comments

Geeky Garbage

This Monday Gelf Magazine, an NYC-based independent webzine “looking over the overlooked”, will host Geeky Garbage, a discussion about one of the most overlooked aspect of our daily lives — waste. On hand will be former Freshkills Park Talks lecturers Robin Nagle (DSNY anthropologist-in-residence) and Howard Warren (expert on the Barren Island/Dead Horse Bay), with Max Liboiron, a trash artist and pollution activist. Be sure to read Gelf’s interview with Nagle for a preview of what to expect.

The discussion will take place at The Gallery at LPR and is free of charge, though donations are encouraged.

Monday, February 20th | 7:30 p.m.
The Gallery at LPR
158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan

February 15, 2012 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 1 Comment

Recycling Reconsidered

Our friends at Discard Studies highly recommend this Thursday’s book launch for Samantha MacBride, author of the recently released Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action (MIT 2012). The listing notes that Samantha’s book “offers a critical yet supportive appraisal of the historical development of recycling in the United States, looking at both materials flows and social significance of this meaningful ecological activity”.

MacBride will be joined by Harvey Molotch (Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology at NYU), Robin Nagle (Director of NYU’s John W. Draper Program in Humanities and Social Thought) and Jeremy Friedman (Manager of Sustainability Initiatives at NYU’s Sustainability Office). Wine and cheese will be on hand. Be sure to RSVP so that they know how many to expect.

Thursday February 9th | 6:00 p.m – 8:00 p.m.
Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor

February 8, 2012 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

Seeking a Freshkills Park Oral History intern

We meet people all the time who have stories about Fresh Kills.  Folks who live nearby, who used to live where the landfill now is, who worked on-site, who were part of the 9/11 recovery effort, who are part of the team working on landfill closure right now.  It’s a huge site that has played a role in the lives of so many people.  We want to start capturing their stories, in their words, for posterity.  So, as part of a larger Department of Sanitation-focused project, we’re joining with Dr. Robin Nagle at NYU’s Draper and Public History Programs to start a Freshkills Park Oral History Project.  And we’re seeking an intern to help us get it started.

The internship will run from January through the end of May and will focus on technical and management assistance to graduate students compiling the Sanitation archive, with the goal of gleaning knowledge and providing the Freshkills Park team with a guide to building an oral history archive.  The full description is available here.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Freshkills Park Talk: Wednesday, Dec. 8th

The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues on Wednesday, December 8th, with a talk by Dr. Robin Nagle.  Titled “The Twist-Tie that Binds: Garbage, New York City and You,” the lecture will recount how the City’s garbage connects New Yorkers to one another as well as to history, politics, infrastructure, and technology.

Dr. Nagle is anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation and director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. She’s most recently been featured in The Believer and a serial New York Times piece, and she maintains the Discard Studies blog. Her book Picking Up, about what it is to be a sanitation worker in New York and why you should care, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

December 8th, 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the NYU Philosophy Building
5 Washington Place (at Mercer St.), Room 101, Manhattan.
FREE.  No RSVP necessary.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Sanitation

Chasing Sanitation: Falling in Love with New York’s Strongest is a series of portraits and interviews with New York City Sanitation workers produced by writer Lisa Dowda and photographer Liz Lignon over the past two years.

Sanitation Workers – they’re not saints. But they made a choice for their families and for themselves. And they were there after the attacks, and they’ll be there next Monday morning. And through the last century, the fight continues against the stigma of one of our most essential civil service agencies. Still, the job, the snow, the trash – it gets done.

The stories are funny and humanizing peeks into the lives of a labor force that, as Dr. Robin Nagle writes, “is absolutely essential to the city’s very existence but that gets little love from the larger world.”  The website went live this summer as the authors search for a publisher to make their project into a book.

October 18, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

At Sneak Peak: Expert-led walking tours

One of the things we’ve learned over the course of this park project is that the Freshkills Park site has been a part of many, many people’s careers: Sanitation workers, engineers, equipment manufacturers, scientists, policymakers, designers, artists, philanthropists—we are constantly astonished to discover a new realm of expertise on this site with which we’re so familiar.  And those people’s viewpoints are always rich with new information.

We’ll be sharing a small fraction of those viewpoints on Sunday at Sneak Peak through a series of guided walking tours that will be led by various players in the story of the Fresh Kills Landfill and the development of Freshkills Park.  These tours will offer a chance to hear the insights of people who have learned to read and interpret the site’s unusual landscape in a particular way as part of their professional practice.  The tours will scale the scenic North Mound and last about 45 minutes each.  On-site, day-of registration is required for all tours.  More information on each of these tours is available on the event’s web site.

11:15 a.m. | PARK PLANNING

with Angelyn Chandler, Capital Program Manager
& Carrie Grassi, Land Use and Outreach Manager
Freshkills Park, NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation


with Ellen Neises, Associate Principal
James Corner Field Operations


with Ted Nabavi, Director of Waste Management Engineering
NYC Department of Sanitation

2:15pm | ECOLOGY

with Terry Doss, Senior Ecologist
Biohabitats, Inc.


with Robin Nagle, Anthropologist-in-Residence
NYC Department of Sanitation

September 29, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garbage installation+panel on the LES, this Sunday

Landscapes with the Fall of Icarus is a two-week performance installation by artist Paul Lloyd Sargent for the the Mobile Literacy + Art Bus (MLAB), a collaborative project of art and architecture students at Syracuse University. From 2007 to 2008, the team converted a 1984 Recreational Vehicle into a mobile classroom, digital photo lab, gallery space, and community center for use by the Syracuse City School District and the greater Syracuse Community.  And now they’re on the road—at 29 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, specifically, for the month of September.

Landscapes is a three-part project: a community trash clean-up and resulting ‘trashmap’ of the surrounding area; a series of extreme close-ups of neighborhood garbage taken by the artist and on display in the MLAB RV, and a panel event featuring artists, writers and activists talking about garbage issues in New York City and beyond.  Tthe panel will include Department of Sanitation Anthropologist-in-Residence Robin Nagle and blogger Leila Darabi of

Panel discussion on the waste disposal chain
Sunday Sep 19th, 2010 | 2–4pm
29 Orchard Street, Manhattan

September 17, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | 2 Comments

Sanitation Anthropologist interviewed in The Believer

NYC Department of Sanitation Anthropologist-in-Residence Robin Nagle is featured on the cover of the current issue of The Believer (along with Wallace Shawn and “Weird Al” Yankovic!).  The issue’s in-depth interview with Dr. Nagle is terrific, covering the ‘cognitive problem’ of garbage, the outlook and perception of Sanitation workers and the role of the anthropologist or archeologist in the study of waste and waste management.

“Garbage is generally overlooked because we create so much of it so casually and so constantly that it’s a little bit like paying attention to, I don’t know, to your spit, or something else you just don’t think about. You—we—get to take it for granted that, yeah, we’re going to create it, and, yeah, somebody’s going to take care of it, take it away.

….The goal of a scholar is to reveal things that otherwise might never be seen or studied or considered or understood or debated…. If I can help illuminate some facet of us as a species that makes culture, as a species that tells stories, as a species that plays in ways that connect us to each other, then I’ve done my job. My entry point is through things we decide are no longer worth keeping.”

And we learn a new word, too: mongo.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | Leave a comment


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