Dennis Diggins on Fresh Kills Landfill operations
Thanks to everyone who came out to last Thursday’s talk on the history of operations at Fresh Kills. Dennis Diggins’ fascinating and wide-ranging overview touched on the history of sanitary landfills and the city’s solid waste management system, the evolution of equipment used for transporting, compacting and containing waste, Dennis’ own personal anecdotes about working at Fresh Kills from 1991-2006 (including the sage advice: “Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets in a landfill,” because if you trip and fall your hands are the only things keeping you from falling head first into the trash) and the Department of Sanitation’s tremendous role in the clean-up and investigation of the World Trade Center attack in the days and months following 9/11.
Even working on the Freshkills Park project every day, the details of Dennis’ talk – this latter part especially – were mostly unfamiliar and totally amazing to us. Sanitation provided lighting, fuel, dust suppression and 50% of the material trucking from Ground Zero. 1000 Sanitation workers cleaned up Wall Street the weekend after 9/11 to allow business to resume. Dennis was clearly proud of his staff’s work – he called it “awe inspiring.” More than one person remarked afterward that we need an oral history project like StoryCorps to interview the Sanitation workers involved in Fresh Kills operations and in the 9/11 recovery effort to record their stories for posterity. We think so too.
Next month’s talk will be given by Ed Toth, Director of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, who will discuss the value of locally appropriate planting and detail the Center’s role in special conservation and reclamation projects around the city, including Freshkills Park. April 23rd, 7:30 pm at the Staten Island Museum, just a short walk from the St. George Ferry Terminal.
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