On September 29th, Freshkills Park opened its gates to the public for the fourth annual Sneak Peak event and attracted 3,500 people, a steady increase from previous years.
They came on bikes, on ferries, and in cars; with family, with friends. A girl from Brooklyn says, “This is a strange place. It does not feel like we are in the city at all.” Indeed, the tall yellow grass, the rolling hills, and the hawks in the sky seemed like neither the city nor the previous landfill site.
In the central area, a miniature horse pulled kids around for five minute rides. The goats that helped eat the site’s invasive phragmites, bleated at passerby. Families lounged on wooden-crates, as Staten Island artists transformed the stone bridge with spray paint. In the distance, a giant rock wall supported climbers of all ages; kayakers took boats into the river.
For a quieter experience, people trekked to the Overlook, a high point where they could see the Manhattan skyline. Or, on a steeper path, they climbed to the top of North Mound and flew Freshkills Park kites.
Art, nature, food and clear skies: we couldn’t have asked for a better day! Now, to start planning for next year’s Sneak Peak… In any case, stay posted on Freshkills Park happenings, and if you missed Sneak Peak this year, there’s always next year. Park tours are also available from April to November:
‘Renewable energy can be beautiful.’ That is the tagline for the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) international design competition. The open LAGI competition calls for ideas to “design a site-specific public artwork that also functions as clean energy infrastructure for New York City.” This year the contest partners with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the site is within the 2,200 acre Freshkills Park on Staten Island. There is a $20,000 jury-awarded prize and a related $1,000 design prize for high school students. The competition opened January 1, 2012 and will close on July 1, 2012.
Methane gas produced from decomposing waste at Fresh Kills landfill is generating revenue for the City of New York of up to $12 million each year as the site is developed into a 2,200-acre park.
With the help of advanced landfill gas collection infrastructure throughout the landfill, the New York City Department of Sanitation is actively harvesting methane, through rigorous state and federal public health and safety guidelines, from the decomposing waste buried at Fresh Kills landfill. This methane, enough to heat approximately 22,000 homes, is sold to National Grid and the city generates approximately $12 million in annual revenue from the sale of that gas. Gas recovery and sale will continue until the amount of gas produced by the landfill is minimal enough as to no longer be economically viable, at which point it will be burned off at flare stations onsite.
With the objective of minimizing energy consumption within new buildings and infrastructure systems at Freshkills Park, the Department of Parks & Recreation is also exploring the use of emerging energy technologies to supply as much of the park’s energy as possible.
The five-alarm fire at the Fresh Kills Compost Site on Monday morning originated in a pile of mulch that combusted spontaneously, according to the city Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty. The fire was contained by early Tuesday morning, thanks to the efforts of 200 firefighters. The Compost Site is managed by the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY), and is located adjacent to Freshkills Park within the footprint of the closed landfill. No landfill mounds or areas of the park site were impacted by the fire, as flames spread only to the West Shore Expressway, which was shut down for several hours on Monday.
A combination of low humidity and high winds, coupled with a historically warm and dry winter, is thought to have triggered the combustion within the already warm mulch piles.
The film is a brief profile of the small but highly efficient Delaware County Landfill in Upstate New York, which is using a system of composting, recycling, and landfill gas (LFG) capture not unlike the one used at Fresh Kills two decades ago. The all-in-one facility is able to divert 70% of its material through recycling and composting, and converts its LFG to electricity through incineration, producing enough to power 300-400 homes.
A new exhibition on the human relationship with hygiene opened last week at the Wellcome Collection in London—a “a free visitor destination for the incurably curious” which “explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future.” Using visual art, documentary photography, cultural ephemera, scientific artifacts, film and literature, “Dirt: the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life” documents a shifting dynamic between what we traditionally conceive of as dirty, contaminated and polluted, and our willingness to try to eliminate or contain its perceived danger. The Freshkills Park site is one of six in the show that are illustrated in depth to explore dirt and cleanliness across time and place.
Following anthropologist Mary Douglas’s observation that dirt is ‘matter out of place’, the exhibition introduces six very different places as a starting point for exploring attitudes towards dirt and cleanliness: a home in 17th-century Delft in Holland, a street in Victorian London, a hospital in Glasgow in the 1860s, a museum in Dresden in the early 20th century, a community in present day New Delhi and a New York landfill site in 2030.
The show’s review in the New York Times is here. It runs through August 31st.
Yesterday, March 22nd, 2011, marked the ten year anniversary of the last barge of garbage delivered to the Fresh Kills Landfill. To mark the occasion and to celebrate ten years of reclamation and preparation for park development, the NYC Department of Sanitation and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation jointly hosted a small celebration at the Freshkills Park site. As part of the festivities, a barge of young trees was delivered to the site to symbolically renew the City of New York’s commitment to a more responsible and environmentally sensitive approach to the stewardship and identity of the site. A group of special guests were ferried into the site on a New York Water Taxi, the first passenger vessel ever to dock at Fresh Kills! Remarks were offered by David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability; Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro; Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and City Council Member Vincent Ignizio. A tree planting ceremony followed. NY1 and the Staten Island Advance ran video coverage; the Advance also ran a nice gallery of images from the morning.
We’re playing catch-up recapping some of our recent events. Last month’s talk by Dr. Steven Handel, Director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE) at Rutgers University, was an informative and engaging overview of Dr. Handel’s work, including a discussion of ‘ecological services’ and why urban ecology is so important. Dr. Handel also elaborated on his research on seed dispersal and tree growth at Fresh Kills and his ecological design work on Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Orange County Great Park. Big thanks go both to him and to the appreciative crowd who turned out to hear him and engage in some thoughtful Q&A afterward.
You can stream the entire audio of the talk, below, or download it directly as an MP3 (53 minutes, 48MB).
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.
We’ve recently added a series of high-resolution aerial photographs of the Fresh Kills region to the Freshkills Park flickr stream, displaying the incredible transformation that the West Shore of Staten Island has undergone since 1943 (landfill operations began officially in 1948). Close inspection tracks the expansion of landfill operations over marsh land, the development of the West Shore Expressway through the site and the influx of new residential communities–as well as commercial outlets like the Staten Island Mall–to the region.