Freshkills Park Blog

Birdwatching tour in New York Times

This past Sunday’s birdwatching tour at the Freshkills Park site is featured in today’s New York Times (and also on the City Room blog, where you can read and post comments).  The sky was overcast and hazy, but we still spotted a dozen or more red-tailed hawks and several northern harriers in addition to meadowlarks, buffleheads, hooded mergansers and great black backed gulls.  We’ve been operating these four-season tours in conjunction with the Staten Island Museum for the last year; our next birdwatching tour is at the end of March, just before the April relaunch of the general public tour season.  If you’re not already on our e-mail newsgroup list, you can sign up to receive biweekly updates on upcoming public programs and RSVP-only opportunities, including the next birdwatching tour.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

This Sunday: Bird-watching tour at Freshkills Park

There are still seats available for this Sunday’s 10 am bird-focused bus and walking tour of the Freshkills Park site.  Our bird tours are held bimonthly and are jointly led by park planners from our office and naturalists from the Staten Island Museum.  They last about two hours and go into the details of the park plan as well.  Lots of birds out this time of year: hawks, turkey vultures, osprey, killdeer, hooded mergansers, ducks, geese and more.  If you’re interested in attending, contact Martha at

The osprey who have nested at the site are now tending to their nestlings.

The osprey who have nested at the site are now tending to their nestlings.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Birds, bats help protect forests and grasslands

If you’re not a biologist or a wildlife hobbyist, it can be hard to understand what the big deal is about birds, bats and other creatures at the Freshkills Park site—why are our birding tours always booked months in advance?  Why so much concern—huge sections of environmental review documents, regulatory review on issues of habitat fragmentation—for the welfare of populations of small animals, when the site is so big?

A new Smithsonian study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps to address these questions by offering a role played by animals in the middle of the food pyramid—insect-eating birds, bats and lizards, specifically: protecting and encouraging the growth of grasslands and forests.  The study, drawing from more than 100 studies of insect predation by birds, bats or lizards from four continents, found that by eating herbivores and their insect predators, birds, bats and lizards reduced damage to plants by 40 percent, which resulted in a 14 percent increase in plant biomass.

Grassland habitat, which is abundant at the Freshkills Park site, is in rare supply in the New York City area.  These middle-pyramid animal species will play an important role in encouraging park development through the establishment of new woodland and the restoration of native grassland.

(via Treehugger)

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

New tour giveaway: native seed!


We’re excited to present a new giveaway we’ve started distributing on our free, public bus tours of the Freshkills Park site: packets of native meadow seed!  This seed was wild-collected in the New York metro area by the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, which will be operating a seven-acre founder seed farm in our first phase of North Park development.  That farm will be used to cultivate even more seed, including the species contained in these packets, and that seed will, in turn, be used in restoration efforts throughout the Freshkills Park site.  So planting these seeds at home, in gardens and pots, will offer a preview of the park to come.

These packets were printed through the generous support of the New York Department of State’s Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability, under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.

UPDATE: Our public bus tours are booked through the end of the tour season in late November!  We’ll still be holding our bi-monthly birdwatching tours through the winter, though, and will look forward to restarting the public tour season in April.

October 16, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , | Leave a comment

Bird numbers declining

Nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species and other threats, according to a recent report from the Department of Interior.  Birds have been getting a bad rep recently, particularly because of the role of Canada geese in the Flight 1549 incident.  But they perform a valuable role in our ecosystems, acting as pollinators and controlling insect populations, as well as acting as indicators for environmental health (think canaries in coal mines, then scale up).  Their habitat is worth protecting.

The Freshkills Park site provides valuable habitat for a variety of birds. It’s a focal point of avian activity on the western shore of Staten Island and a key layover point on the Atlantic Flyway.  We host bi-monthly bird-watching tours in partnership with the Staten Island Museum, often spotting hawks, turkey vultures, killdeer, geese, ducks, herons and other shorebirds.  Protecting and expanding bird habitat is an important goal that will be interwoven with park development, starting most immediately with a small wetland restoration project in the North Park section of the site.

Photo by visualgrover via flickr

Photo by visualgrover via flickr

April 3, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , | Leave a comment

A weekend for New York City trashies

The “Fast Trash” exhibit is a gift that keeps on giving: two excellent organizations are holding awesome-sounding garbage-focused events at Gallery RIVAA on Roosevelt Island this weekend, piggybacking on the last week of “Fast Trash”‘s run.  On Saturday, May 15th, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) will screen two documentaries on New York City waste disposal: the rare and intriguing-sounding 1979 documentary Collection and Disposal, a Job for the Birds, and CUP’s own 2002 Garbage Problems.

Focused on New York’s garbage glut, Robert Machover and Catherine Pozzo Di Borgo’s “Collection and Disposal” asks where NYC garbage will go when the landfills reach capacity. Through informal interviews with the sanitation workers who each lug 6,000 pounds of trash every day, the documentary gives a glimpse into the challenges of hauling and planning for the future, and reveals some insider garbage slang on the side.

Picking up where “Collection and Disposal” left off, 2002’s “Garbage Problems” finds that three decades later there’s still no clear solution to the city’s garbage crisis. The documentary, CUP’s first-ever Urban Investigation, uncovers some of the dirty politics of putting together a comprehensive waste plan for the city.

The screening will be followed by a presentation from garbage historian and environmental planner Benjamin Miller on the prospects and challenges of implementing a citywide pneumatic garbage transport system.

And on Sunday, Urban Omnibus hosts a meet-up on Roosevelt Island to explore the Island on foot with landscape architect Donald Richardson, who worked on the its 1969 master plan.  The walk will be followed by a guided tour of the “Fast Trash” show with its curator, architect Juliette Spertus.   Both of these events sound incredibly interesting to us.  Two great days to spend on/learning about “The Island Nobody Knows.”

Trashy Pictures
Saturday, May 15, 5 – 7pm
Gallery RIVAA
527 Main Street, Roosevelt Island
F train to Roosevelt Island
FREE | Seats very limited, RVSP to

Urban Omnibus Meet-up
Sunday, May 16th, 2010, 2pm
Roosevelt Island, meet outside the F train stop

May 12, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stearns Quarry Park, Chicago IL

Photo by find a city to live in via flickr

27-acre Stearns Quarry Park opened in 2009 in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.  The site was used as a limestone quarry from 1833 to 1969 by the Illinois Stone and Lime Company, after which it served as a municipal landfill: from 1969 to 1974, dirt, gravel, brick and construction debris were delivered to the site, filling the hole excavated by mining operations.

Guided by a design produced by site design group and landscape architecture firm D.I.R.T. Studio, the City of Chicago began park construction in 2005.  As at the Freshkills Park site, coupling landfill closure and park construction required compliance with state regulations about, among other things, topsoil cleanliness and depth.  More than 40,000 cubic yards of topsoil were imported to the site.  Hundreds of trees were planted.  Boardwalks over wetland areas were made of recyled plastic and wood.  A stormwater containment system was constructed to catch and treat water before channeling it into the park’s wetlands and pond.

The completed park features a fishing pond and fountain, athletic fields, running paths, a hiking and sledding mound, public event space, a host of native plantings and related birds and wildlife, and an exhibited collection of 400 million-year-old fossils of aquatic animals.  The Chicago Park District has put together an MP3 audio tour of the park, guided by a planner and historian, who reviews the site’s history and its current features.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome back, feathered friends

Last Sunday’s bird-watching tour at the Freshkills Park site was eventful.  Not only did we catch a glimpse of a snow goose fishing around the storm water basin on East Mound, we also noticed this osprey sitting in a nest atop the tall perch in Main Creek.  This is the same nest that housed a family of osprey last year–our public tours witnessed the laying, hatching and fledging of two osprey chicks between May and August.  (We also featured osprey in our winter newsletter.)  We only spotted one adult in the nest on Sunday, but we were happy to welcome him and hope he’s the ambassador of a continued osprey presence onsite.

Our next bird-watching tour will be May 23rd.  Registration for that tour will be open in mid-April.  Add yourself to our newsgroup to be alerted–these tours fill up quickly!

April 1, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

Our new binoculars

The generous folks at Nikon cut us a sweet deal on a few pairs of their new Ecobins binoculars. They’re manufactured with lead- and arsenic-free glass and built with non-chloride rubber ecobinsthat uses no harmful inks or dyes.  The straps and carrying bags are produced from sustainable eucalyptus and manufactured with minimal waste.  They even arrived in photodegradable, post-consumer boxes!  To boot, Nikon kicked in a few extra pairs of their 8×40 Action Series binoculars.  We’re very appreciative.  The binoculars will be put to good use on our public bus tours, and especially our bimonthly birding tours (the next one is July 26th).

Our purchase was supported by our faithful grantors at the New York Department of State Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability, who have awarded us money under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund to expand our tour programs and environmental education efforts at Freshkills Park.

June 24, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , | Leave a comment