Freshkills Park Blog

New Recycling Facility Demonstrates Sustainability


The new Sims Recycling Facility in Brooklyn (Image from NY Times)

The Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will open soon on the Brooklyn waterfront, providing countless environmental benefits. The large in-city recycling center will be able to process 20,000 tons of recyclables a month; for comparison, at its peak Freshkills received 29,000 tons of trash every day. While it might seem like a drop in the bucket, having a recycling center on the Brooklyn waterfront where loads can come in by barge will save the Department of Sanitation 260,000 miles of truck route every year. That’s equivalent to a sanitation truck driving over ten times around the earth. Reduced truck miles will help with traffic congestion, improve air quality, and decrease fossil fuel emissions.

Beyond the environmental benefits of constructing a new recycling center, the design of the building reflects a focus on sustainability derived from a practice what you preach attitude. The building is constructed using over 90% recycled steel. The roof boasts the current largest solar array in the city, generating 500kW of energy (enough to power about 150 homes). The design firm, Selldorf Architects, even included a spot of green space in their design by incorporating trees and bioswales to capture storm water runoff.

The buildings purpose and design coalesce to make it an incredible opportunity for environmental education. The facility “include[s] an education center that wasn’t just a repurposed closet with an instructional video to torture captive schoolchildren.” With classroom space and cat walks through the plant, students will have the opportunity to experience the process of recycling first hand.  Hopefully, some of these students will become champions of recycling and help us build a more sustainable New York City.


December 10, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designing Resilient Streets

How do you design a space to maximize its social and ecological resiliency? A green space where the community gathers and plants help clean the air and absorb storm water. You might think that such a space could only be achieved in a large park like Freshkills, but the newly released 2013 Street Design Manual demonstrates how the street in front of your doorstep can be transformed into a place that fosters social interactions and supports wildlife.

This stretch of Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th in Manhattan was recently re-designed to foster community and green space (Photo courtesy of Street Design Manual 2013)

This stretch of Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th in Manhattan was recently re-designed to foster community and green space (Photo courtesy of Street Design Manual 2013)

The street design manual unveiled by Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Kahn at the 2013 MAS Summit highlights designs for “place making plazas” that transform endless swaths of concrete into gathering places. While the most visible of these transformations was the closing of Time Square, these plazas can be developed on a run-of-the-mill sidewalk by adding seating and landscaping to a barren wide stretch of concrete. These types of designs are successful at fostering community precisely because they are requested and maintained by the communities where they are installed. Adding places where neighbors can stop, smell the flowers, and get to know one another could be another way to boost social resiliency.  

Not only do the new street designs foster more social connections amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, but they also strive to improve physical resiliency with suggestions for landscape design. The manual has recommendations for tree pits, bio swells, and rain gardens that will help reduce the issue of combined sewage overflow that overwhelms the city’s infrastructure. The guidelines on plantings also include information on storm and drought tolerance so that plantings can be made with future climate change in mind. While these plantings work to adapt to the effects of climate change, the plan also proposes steps to reduce carbon emissions with new LED street lamps.

We’re looking forward to seeing how this new street design manual transforms the urban landscape of NYC into one that has more capacity to withstand and adapt to climate change.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | 1 Comment

Sneak Peak 2013


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:

October 8, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeding Cities


feeding cities2

A rooftop garden in Brooklyn (Source: New York Times)

The complex relationship between cities and agriculture was a hot topic this spring at the “Feeding Cities” conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Growing populations are demanding more food, as well as increasing the geographic footprint of cities. Once fertile land on the outskirts of cities is being developed, and agriculture has become dominated by large scale corporate farming, which further complicates food distribution issues.  However, Heather Grady of the Rockefeller Foundation stated in her key note speech at the conference that by getting rid of waste in processing, delivery and sales, as well as conserving land for agriculture within and surrounding urban areas can help address global food security issues.

Although food security issues are present at a global scale, solutions are being explored at a more local level. The Urban Design Lab (UDL) of Columbia University’s Earth Institute undertook a study of the feasibility of urban agriculture in New York City. The UDL published their results in The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City report in 2011. The study identified almost 5,000 acres of vacant land likely to be suitable for farming in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as more than 1,000 acres of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) green space, underutilized open spaces, and Greenstreets.

On Staten Island in particular, a large portion of the vacant land was found not to be suitable for farming, due to the difficulty of establishing a farm on such sites, as well as the problems innate in converting valuable ecological resources such as wetland or forest to food production, including much of Freshkills Park. Although there are currently no plans to incorporate agriculture into the park plans, the study found over 4,000 acres on Staten Island that have the potential for urban agriculture.

The report outlined the numerous benefits to developing agricultural spaces within or near urban areas, including the potential to reduce food transportation costs and environmental effects, as well as provide opportunities for economic development and diminish the disparities in access to healthy foods. However, in order to become a viable option to food production for the masses, urban agriculture must overcome challenges of scalability, energy efficiency and labor costs.

July 8, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Composting Toilets in New York City

Prospect Park is building a composting toilet and putting to use an obsolete building. The Pump House, an unused building tucked away in the center of the park, is not connected to the New York City sewer system so traditional restrooms are not possible but with park use on the rise more restroom facilities are needed, especially in this more remote area of the park.

The toilets will not look or smell unusual, the noticeable difference is that special foam is used to flush.  Christian Zimmerman, lead landscape architect at the Prospect Park Alliance, expects that the composted waste will be removed every five years and taken to a landfill, although he hopes that the laws prohibiting the use of this manure within the city will change in the near future.  By utilizing composting technology the park is able to provide an amenity where it was needed most while also helping the city reduce the volume of sewage sent to the treatment plants.

The number of composting toilets is on the rise in New York City; The Bronx Zoo, the Queens Botanical Garden, and the Hollenback Community Garden in Brooklyn are already using composting technology.

A composting toilet facility is in the plans at Freshkills Park which is one part of an array of sustainable practices used in the parks’ development.

Rendering of New Prospect Park Restroom Facility

Rendering of New Prospect Park Restroom Facility

May 1, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Highlighting another Sustainable Park: Canal Park, Washington DC

Opening Day November 2012

Canal Park on Opening Day (November 2012)

Canal Park in Washington DC, situated between the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, was originally a canal before it was paved over in the early 1900’s for a multitude of uses, including use as a lot for idling buses. The area was converted into a park in 2000 and shortly thereafter, in 2004, the non-profit Canal Park Development Association sponsored a sustainable park design competition for the site. OLIN, a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm was selected to design the park.

Construction on Canal Park began in 2010 and the park opened in November 2012. The new design includes many sustainable, innovative features.   Among these are underground cisterns that collect “grey water” runoff from the park and neighboring blocks to be reused in park fountains, toilets, ice skating pond and irrigation. Additionally, geothermal wells have been installed to provide heating and cooling in park amenities.

The transformation of Freshkills Park involves a similar commitment to sustainability. The Owl Hollow Fields, under construction at Freshkills Park, will have a geothermal-energy-heated, green-roofed comfort station designed by Sage & Coombe. Schmul Park, which opened in 2012 and is located in the Travis neighborhood of Staten Island, also includes many sustainable features. The comfort station designed by BKSK Architects features a rain garden and throughout the park there are native plantings and permeable pavement in order to mitigate surface stormwater runoff.

Both Freshkills and Canal Park are model examples of 21st century sustainable parks.

(via City Parks Blog)

Canal Park before revitalization (May 2003)

Canal Park before revitalization (May 2003)

Canal Park after revitalization (November 2012)

Canal Park after revitalization (November 2012)

(all images copyright : JD)

March 6, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 1 Comment

Transforming Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport


In 2010, two years after its closure, Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport was reopened to the public as Tempelhofer Freiheit, a large city park just two miles south of the city center. Since it’s reopening, little has been done to the airport’s landscape; existing walkways are largely disconnected and only minimal infrastructure and amenities are in place. However, with Gross Max and Sutherland Hussey Architects declared as the winners of the 2010 international design competition, and with Tempelhofer Freiheit selected as the location of the 2017 International Horticultural Exhibition, the new park will be well on its way to completion by 2017.

The planning principles behind Tempelhofer Freiheit combine themes of education, integration, efficiency, economy, health, and innovation, which will be evident in the repurposing of Tempelhof’s infrastructure. The southern portion of Tempelhofer Freiheit will include incubation space for clean technology businesses, the old terminal will act as a large event space, which may even include the New Central and Regional Library of Berlin, which leaves the center of Tempelhofer Freiheit available for year-round public use.

The ultimate goal of the designers is to build a landscape that parallels the individualism and dynamism of Berlin society. They propose that the best way to do so is to appoint curators to annually redesign the message of the park. According to the Wall Street Journal, the designers would like the park to function as an “outdoor living room” and “a contemporary prairie for the urban cowboy,” while reflecting the ideas of such diverse thinkers like Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, and Dolce & Gabbana. At over 900 acres, the former Tempelhof Airport will become a distinct recreational landscape for Berlin and an inspiration for innovative adaptive reuse projects all over the world.

Tempelhofer Freiheit-Concept Parkland


February 11, 2013 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

New study on link between trees and lower crime rates

Previous studies have shown that trees are associated with lower crime rates and a new study in Baltimore affirms this finding, showing the link goes beyond a correlation between the two factors. In other words, it’s not just a matter of wealthier neighborhoods having lower crime rates. The study controlled for socioeconomic factors and found a 10% increase in trees “roughly equaled” a 12% decrease in crime rates.

More and more evidence points to the significant return on investment from trees – citing cooling effects, air quality benefits and lower crime rates.

(via Kaid Benfield’s Blog – Natural Resources Defense Council)

June 15, 2012 Posted by | FKP | , , | 2 Comments

New Section of Staten Island Bike Path to Open in August

Come August,  Staten Island is set to become an even more bike-friendly borough. The Parks Department is in the process of completing a two-mile bike path that will connect the neighborhoods of Great Kills and New Dorp, both of which lie on the other side of Latourette Park from Freshkills Park. The path will run parallel to the southeastern coast of the Island and will provide bikers, runners and walkers a more protected and bucolic alternative to traveling along the roadways. This bike route will be a welcome complement to Freshkills Park’s own 3.3 mile New Springville Greenway, set to be completed by 2013. Eventually, the route will also include spaces for “outdoor gyms” as part of city-wide fitness initiative, BeFitNYC. The creation of this path also represents an important new partnership between several city and state agencies in order to more efficiently improve the quality of  New York City’s parklands for visitors and local residents alike.

(via SI Live)

June 12, 2012 Posted by | FKP | , , | 1 Comment

How building subways helps build our parks

2nd Ave Tunnel

As work on Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway line progresses, those viewing the massively scaled operation may wonder, “where does all the excavated dirt and rock go?” In the past, the ‘muck’ from expanding subway lines and other construction projects has contributed to the building of Ellis Island, Governors Island and Battery Park City, among other city landmarks – including the expansion of the Manhattan shoreline. Crushed rock from the 7 train extension was used in the construction of Owl Hollow Fields at Freshkills Park on Staten Island and material from the Second Avenue line is being used in the construction of the Ferry Point Golf Course in the Bronx. Material from the Long Island Railroad expansion under the East River was used in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Additional waste is processed and sold for construction and landscaping by private companies.

(via City Atlas)

May 25, 2012 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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