Freshkills Park Blog

Steven Handel on urban restoration ecology

For our Freshkills Park Talk two weeks back, Dr. Steven Handel shared insights into the emerging field of urban restoration ecology, which focuses on the challenge of bringing ecological diversity back to degraded lands like brownfields and landfills.  He discussed his research at the Freshkills Park site and others in the region and went on to describe how his expertise has informed the design of Orange County, CA’s Great Park.

Much of his discussion centered around concepts of ecological sustainability.  Some key takeaways: At a site as large as Freshkills Park, it would be costly and unsustainable to plant and maintain the type of landscape found in a more traditional park landscape like Central Park.  Dr. Handel emphasized the bang-for-buck of planting small, pioneer clusters of trees and shrubs that could attract bees and birds, which act as pollinators and seed spreaders.  He also detailed the value of mosaic plant populations, in which some species can thrive while others shrink in response to evolving conditions.  In the face of climate change, this adaptability, he said, would be essential for park resilience over time.

The talk covered much more.  We’re grateful to Dr. Handel and to the big crowd that came out to hear him speak.  Below are a few audio highlights.  Each is 3 to 5 minutes long.

handelslide3Clip 1: The  “ecological services” and other benefits provided by green, sustainable landscapes.

handelslide2Clip 2: On Dr. Handel’s soil restoration work in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

handelslide1Clip 3: The importance of pollinators and the challenge of aligning engineering goals with ecological goals.

July 13, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eli Cohen on sustainability and phytoremediation

Eli Cohen gave a terrific talk Monday night on his work, as director of Ayala Water and Ecology, using plants to remove pollutants and contaminants from water, soil and air.  We’re grateful to the huge crowd that poured into the Arsenal gallery for the event, to Laura Starr and Yamit Perez for putting us in touch with Eli and, of course, to Eli himself for sharing his work and his thoughts.

One of his bigger themes, telegraphed by the title of the talk, “Sustainability in Practice,” was his strong belief that “Natural Biological Systems”– systems constructed of plants, soil, rocks and other natural materials and supported by forces like gravity and sunlight–are not only just as effective as more expensive, technological solutions to environmental remediation, but also, literally, much more sustainable.  He walked through a number of Ayala’s Natural Biological Systems, which filtered and cleaned runoff and sewage from a variety of sites including private residences, a dairy farm, a landfill, a cosmetics plant and an entire city (Hyderabad, India).  His full slideshow is available as a PDF (6MB).

handelslide2You can stream the entire audio of the talk, below, as you page through the slides.  You can also download that audio directly as an MP3 (71 minutes, 66MB).

December 9, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recent press on upcoming Freshkills Park speakers

MLUOne of the panelists at next Tuesday evening’s panel discussion on public art, The Challenges and Channels of Public Art Production, is Mierle Ukeles, who is the Department of Sanitation’s Artist-in-Residence and contributed to the Freshkills Park master planning process as a Percent for Art artist.  As the first and premier maintenance artist working today, there’s been a lot written about Mierle’s public artwork over the years, including this most recent article in Public Art Review.  She’s also written a chapter called “Forgiveness for the Land–Public Offerings: Made by All Redeemed by All” in the recently published book Considering Forgiveness.

handelThe Christian Science Monitor also just featured Dr. Steven Handel, a pioneer in the field of urban ecology who has been involved in a number of investigations and design projects for land reclamation sites–including numerous studies on the Freshkills Park site.  Dr. Handel is the director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE), a joint venture between Rutgers and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  He will be this month’s speaker in our Freshkills Park Talks lecture series next Thursday evening at the Staten Island Museum, where he’ll discussing urban ecology, directions for the future and the lessons we can take from Freshkills Park.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Freshkills Park events

The upcoming week is a busy one for us.  Three terrific public events focused on different aspects of the Freshkills Park site: waste, art and ecology.  They’re all free, and we hope to see you at one or more of them.  An RSVP is needed for the first, but not the others.

Saturday, June 20th, 12-2:30pm @ the Freshkills Park site
Sacred Geography: How to Love a Landfill
Robin Nagle, Anthropologist-in-Residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation, suggests that Fresh Kills, both as a landfill of yesteryear and as a park of tomorrow, merits our affection despite its troubled heritage. She goes so far as to claim that Fresh Kills is sacred space, a status she believes it held even before it became the location for material from the World Trade Center. Join us as she explores these provocative ideas on the North Mound of Freshkills Park.  Space is limited.  Please RSVP to Martha at to participate.

The Challenges and Channels of Public Art Production: A Panel Discussion
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 7-9pm @ Cargo Café
120 Bay Street, Staten Island, a short w
alk from the St. George Ferry Terminal
The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) and Freshkills Park present a panel discussion and dialogue about how commissioning entities, time scales, transient or permanent siting, and approvals processes moderate what public work can and should be.  Panelists are: Ingrid Chu, Director of RED-I Projects and Forever & Today, Inc.; Christina Ray, Director and Founder of Glowlab and Conflux; and New York City-based artists Michael Falco, Kathryne Hall and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the Department of Sanitation’s Artist-in-Residence who contributed to the master plan for Freshkills Park.  Moderator: Sara Reisman, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program.

Freshkills Park Talks: Urban Ecology at Fresh Kills
Thursday, June 25, 2009, 7:30-9pm @ The Staten Island Museum
75 Stuyvesant Place, a short walk from the St. George Ferry Terminal
Dr. Steven Handel, professor of ecology at Rutgers University and the Director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE), has been conducting research at Fresh Kills for nearly two decades. Dr. Handel will discuss his findings, what they mean for the restoration of compromised landscapes and the lessons we can learn from Fresh Kills in developing strategies for managing the ecology of our cities.

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

Field Operations on Designing Freshkills Park

Our big thanks to Jerome Chou and Grace Tang from Field Operations for last Thursday’s Freshkills Park Talk on designing the park. Jerome delivered a great primer on landscape architecture (including a history in two slides!) and talked about the mandate for new model of practice given the nature of the site and the enormity of the project, both in space and time scale. Grace walked us through the design concepts for three early projects: the Digger signage project, Schmul Park and North Park Phase A, and talked about how these projects—especially North Park—bring into specific play the grander ideas of the Draft Master Plan for the park as a whole. A number of the crowd’s questions dealt with maintenance and operations of the park: how it will be staffed, how its cleanliness will be ensured. This was a good opportunity to clarify the separate roles of the designers and the city: we at the Parks Department are responsible for the park and, jointly with the Department of Sanitation, will be in charge of its day-to-day operation.

A PDF of Jerome and Grace’s presentation is available here (it’s a 10MB download). Below are a couple of choice audio clips, each between 3 and 5 minutes long, from the talk. It’s useful to follow along with the PDF while they talk, since they refer to images a lot; each clip indicates the first slide it references.

landscape_thumbClip 1: A brief history of landscape architecture. Starts on Slide 12, “Context.”

fklandscape_thumbClip 2: Time, space and what makes Freshkills Park so unique. Starts on Slide 18, “2011 / 2016 / 2036.”

schmul_thumbClip 3: A walk through the Field Operations design for Schmul Park. Starts on Slide 42, “Schmul Park.”

Next month’s talk, “Urban Ecology at Fresh Kills,” will be given by Dr. Steven Handel from Rutgers University, who has conducted ecological research at Fresh Kills since the early 1990s. Dr. Handel will be talking about what we can learn from Fresh Kills in developing strategies for restoring ecology in our cities.  As always, this event is free of charge.
June 25th, 7:30 pm at the Staten Island Museum.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | 1 Comment