In a bold piece of legislation, New York City will reduce its waste by one third by requiring that, by 2015, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial food generators send all of their organic waste, including food scraps, to either a compost facility or an anaerobic digester. The 1.2 million tons of organic waste diverted each year under this new program is no drop in the bucket, it is more than the annual waste produced in Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and D.C. and it will contribute to the goal to double the city’s current recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017. “All eyes are on New York,” said Samantha MacBride, the city’s former deputy director of recycling and now assistant public policy professor at Baruch College. Organic waste recycling, she said, is the “holy grail of sustainable waste management in my view,” as reported by Gotham Gazette.
New York City has a head start on this program with a pilot program that converts residential and school food waste and organics into clean renewable energy at the anaerobic digester in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The new bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Deborah Rose of Staten Island, provides the scale necessary to make this process cost effective for businesses and motivate private development of organics processing infrastructure for the New York metropolitan area. After its start as a pilot project in 90 public schools, the organic waste recycling program is now being tested with city agencies, single family homes in the Westerleigh section of Staten Island (where, after only a few months, participation rates are above 50 percent) and in two Manhattan high-rise developments.
“We spend over $85 million a year sending food waste to landfills, so there’s a major cost,” said Ron Gonen, New York City’s deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability, who heads up the composting program. He told Yale environment360 that so far the program is collecting at a pace on the order of “tens of thousands” of tons per year. “It’s growing every day,” said Gonen. “We’re going to continue to expand, in all five boroughs.” By 2014 the program will cover around 100,000 households. In addition to the food waste recycling pilot, the city has partnered with our friends at GrowNYC to begin food scrap collection at green markets throughout the five boroughs. Interested households who are not in the pilot areas for collection can bring their food waste to sites across the city for composting at community gardens and other environmental programs.
By the bill’s extension to the commercial sector, the City expects the residential sector to be better served, lowering disposal fees by circumventing landfills and providing local clean renewable energy generation, local jobs and environmental protection.
Learn more about tours of the Newtown Creek Digester Eggs through Openhousenewyork!
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:
As habitat is restored in Freshkills Park, many animal species have already returned to the site, including foxes, turtles, egrets, rabbits, deer, and, as of recently, a coyote. In fact, coyotes are becoming increasingly prevalent in urbanized areas across the U.S., leading to conflicts over how to handle these wild animals when they come into contact with humans.
Coyotes find suburban areas particularly attractive for the abundant availability of food sources, including pet food, human food scraps, fruit trees, rodents, and even small pets. An article in the New York Times today highlights the difficulties that can arise in coexisting with these large predators. However, the article also noted the proactive approach that Denver has taken to prevent and safely manage conflicts with coyotes.
Founded in 2008, Project Coyote works with communities to develop “coexistence plans” that focus on strategic hazing, or training residents, animal control officers and parks staff to use consistent and persistent deterrents like loud noises, water spraying, bright lights, throwing objects, shouting and chasing coyotes.
Denver adopted a hazing-based management plan three years ago, sending out teams, for example, to scare off coyotes that had taken to trotting after joggers in a public park. And according to a case study prepared by wildlife specialists with the Humane Society and Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, officials report that hazing has successfully reversed “aggressive and undesirable behaviors in coyote family groups and solitary coyotes, reducing pet attacks in neighborhoods and reducing the overall number of complaints from residents.”
In Denver, the killing of coyotes was reserved as a last resort — an action to be taken only in response to human attacks — but no lethal control has been used since the hazing program began in 2009. According to the case study, “one of the novel and cost-savings aspects of the program is its hands-on and empowering nature — it gives local residents the ability and confidence to address coyote conflicts in their own backyards, without outside help.” Similar programs are being developed or put into effect around the country.
Hopefully, the coyote spotted at Freshkills Park will be content to have the whole the park to himself for the time being, but the Denver example shows that education and local empowerment can play an important role in learning to live with urban coyotes.
(via New York Times)
There are three great events coming up this month related to Freshkills Park.
The first is the opening of a new exhibit, From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012, on the history of Staten Island at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit opens to the public on Thursday, September 13th and will be on display through January 21st. The story behind the creation of the Fresh Kills Landfill and subsequent redevelopment into Freshkills Park is featured prominently. As the exhibition description states:
Through maps, photographs, newspapers, government documents, and original artifacts, visitors will encounter Staten Island’s historical transformation and its changing roles as a farming center, as a rural retreat, as the site of rapidly residential communities, as a center for industry, and as an increasingly dense urban environment. From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012 will also enable visitors to explore current debates about land preservation, environmental sustainability, and redevelopment on the island…
Also upcoming on Thursday, September 20th is a screening, hosted by Staten Island Borough President Molinaro, of a new documentary about the transformation of the Fresh Kills site entitled The Freshkills Story. The screening is free and open to the public and will take place at 7 pm at the historic St. George Theater on Staten Island (doors open at 6:30). The film will be followed by a panel discussion with individuals who have been involved in the life of the site, including Freshkills Park Administrator Eloise Hirsh.
The one-hour documentary includes footage from when Fresh Kills was operational, details the fight led by Staten Island residents and government leaders to close the landfill, and showcases the future of what will be Staten Island’s largest park, including active and passive recreation opportunities, wind and solar energy facilities, and roadways open to the public. (View the Trailer for The Freshkills Story)
And, of course, don’t forget about this year’s Sneak Peak! It’s happening on Sunday, September 23rd, from 11 am to 4 pm and will be a great opportunity to see the incredible transformation of the park in person. There’s going to be a lot to see and plenty of family-friendly activities including kayaking, biking, nature walks, kite flying, workshops, and much more. For more information please visit the Sneak Peak website at www.nyc.gov/sneakpeak. We look forward to seeing everyone there!
This past weekend, Freshkills Park hosted two lively sets of visitors. On Saturday, Pack 118 of the Staten Island Boys of Scouts of America, explored the South and North Mounds of the park. This curious group of young Staten Islanders learned about the myriad of wildlife and plant species that make their home at Freshkills Park, as well as the history of the landfill and master plan. Many thanks to the pack members who have also visited Freshkills Park previously to take good care of some of the trees planted on site as part of the Million Trees NYC program.
Sunday was a glorious day for taking in Freshkills Park from the water. An intrepid group of 20 kayakers from Staten Island were led by the Freshkills Park team and volunteers from Kayak Staten Island, and paddled along the Main Creek. It was prime time for birdwatching as the kayakers saw an osprey dive for fish right next to the boats! Blue Herons and Egrets dotted the shoreline, as terns and gulls flew overhead joining the paddlers in enjoying the beautiful scenery along the Fresh Kill waterways and wetland.
Tours of Freshkills Park are free and open to the public by appointment only. If you would like to schedule a group tour please contact Michael Callery at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for more exciting public tour announcements and news on our annual preview event Sneak Peak at Freshkills Park which will take place on Sunday, September 23.
If you, like us, are currently immersed in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, it is fascinating to imagine if the games were instead taking place in our own backyard… More specifically at Freshkills Park!
As WNYC has reminded us, during New York City’s bid for the Olympics back in 2005, Staten Island and Freshkills Park were featured as a prominent site for large scale sporting events. The park itself would have hosted the Staten Island Olympic Cycling Center where the BMX and Mountain biking events would have taken place. While the rest of the borough was set to become home to the Greenbelt Equestrian Center, Fort Wadsworth Road Cycling Course Cycling and Richmond Olympic Softball Stadium. Thankfully both horseback riding and biking will eventually be offered on the island as part of the Freshkills Park master plan.
Despite losing out to London, New York City has still gone forward with several Olympics’ related infrastructure and venue plans. For instance, the proposed gymnastics arena, has been built instead as the Brooklyn Nets Stadium at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. WNYC has also produced a fascinating interactive feature which depicts all the proposed Olympic sites throughout the rest of the city.
A few days ago, an adorable baby goat joined the herd that’s spending the summer at Freshkills Park. The small kid spent her first few days of life enjoying a restful and shady corner of the park surrounded by tall grasses, before, as their devoted herder Larry Cihanek had planned, she and her mom were taken back to their farm in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The rest of the nineteen goats in the herd will remain at Freshkills Park for the next few weeks, grazing on invasive plant species as part of a 2-acre wetland restoration project. Check out our Facebook page for more glimpses of the baby goat!
Happy 4th of July! Be safe, and get out and enjoy the great outdoors!
With the support of a New York State Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, the Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking restoration of two acres of wetland habitat along Main Creek within Freshkills Park that will include goat grazing as a method of invasive plant control. This pilot project will provide guidance for further wetland restoration projects within the 2,200-acre site, which is the largest landfill-to-park transformation project in the world.
The project seeks to lessen the current erosive impacts at the shoreline while planting native species to enhance habitat value and prevent the return of Phragmites, a highly invasive species. It will create a wider band of salt marsh habitat and a mosaic of coastal habitat including coastal grassland for a variety of marine, avian and wildlife species. The project will stabilize the shoreline to provide additional protection for habitat from potential climate change and sea level rise and will improve water quality through increased interface between coastal plants and tidal waters.
Prior to the wetland construction, a herd of goats will perform conservation grazing to clear invasive plants from the site, particularly Phragmites. Prescribed goat grazing is more common in the rangelands of the western U.S., but is being used more often in the eastern half of the country and in more urban areas, including Governors Island and Ft. Wadsworth in New York City. Benefits of utilizing goats for prescribed grazing include:
- Goats are adept at accessing fence borders, steep slopes and other “hard to reach” plots.
- Although goats produce low levels of methane, they emit far less greenhouse gases than traditional “spark-ignition” lawn mowers.
- Research suggests grazing animals encourage root growth and denser sod cover.
- Correctly managed, animal waste is a source for free, organic fertilizer.
The pilot project will be monitored for success in Phragmites eradication and reintroduction of native plant species. For more information on the Main Creek Wetland Restoration and other projects at the site, visit the Freshkills Park website.
On September 15, 2012, the Museum of the City of New York will inaugurate an exhibition entitled From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661-2012. Through the display of a treasure trove of maps, photographs and objects, the exhibit will explore Staten Island’s rich 351 year history and it’s transformation from a rural to urban landscape. A major portion of the show will be devoted to redevelopment of the Freshkills Park site from a landfill to a green city park. Stay tuned for the Museum’s special interactive website which promises to provide a wealth of exciting information pertaining to the various stages of Staten Island’s growth.