Freshkills Park Blog

Gowanus gets Superfund designation

The EPA has named Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal a federal Superfund site, thus identifying it as one of “the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country” and making it a target for a comprehensive clean-up process.  The agency estimates that clean-up will last 10 to 12 years and cost between $300 million and $500 million, with funding to draw from parties responsible for the canal’s contamination (so far, the City of New York, the US Navy and seven private companies including Consolidated Edison and National Grid have been identified as potentially responsible).  The New York Times reports that most of the canal is likely to be dredged, and continuing sources of contamination, including overflowing sewage and groundwater seepage from adjacent industrial sites, will also be eliminated.

The subject of what to do with the Gowanus has been at the center of debate and reflection for some time.  Urban Omnibus recaps its coverage of discussions and events on the topic; the Times has amassed a gallery of readers’ photos of the site.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

Artists engaging the environment, at Wave Hill

Fresh Kills Landfill Percent for Art artist Mierle Ukeles will be moderating a panel discussion on “engaging the environment” through artistic practice, with Winter Workspace Artists Susan Benarcik, Eve Mosher and Anne Katrin Spiess, Sunday at Wave Hill in the Bronx.  Winter Workspace, which started in January and runs through March 21st, has allowed seven visual artists to develop new work at Wave Hill, making use of the site’s garden and woodland while reflecting on the Hudson River.

Sunday, March 7th, 2pm
Wave Hill House
West 249th St. and Independence Ave., Bronx
Reservations are recommended through the website

or by calling 718.549.3200 x 305.

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

Mark Brest van Kempen

An image of one component of Van Kempen's work on Seattle's Ravenna Creek Project.

Bay Area environmental artist Mark Brest Van Kempen makes work that reflects on the relationship between human and natural systems.  Since the 1980s, Brest van Kempen has combined architecture, infrastructure and ecology in a series of projects at varying scales.  At the gallery scale, his installation Cleaning System (2000) monitored the passage of laundry wastewater through a filtration pond with plants, tadpoles and fish before it was channeled outdoors to water plants.  At the public scale, from 2002-2009 he designed and implemented a multi-component public art project for the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation‘s Ravenna Creek Project, tracing the historical and present-day flow of the Ravenna Creek under the city’s streets through the use of signage, viewing stations and daylighting vaults.

He is currently at work on two noteworthy public projects: a signage and sculpture project interpreting the ecology and history of the Rockridge-Temescal Greenbelt and Temescal Creek in Oakland, CA, and an interpretive artwork to complement public tours fo the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant.

(via ecoartspace)

February 24, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Restoring wetlands in the Bronx River

The NYC Parks Department has partnered with the US Army Corps of Engineers to restore wetland habitat near the mouth of the Bronx River in Soundview Park.  The project will clear away garbage and debris dumped into the area to allow greater inundation, and then native shrubs and coastal grasses will be planted along the river’s edge.  The intention is to restore habitat through clean-up and planting, which will attract clams and worms and, in turn, draw fish to the area.  The restoration is in design now, and construction is expected to start later this year.

The project is part of the Bronx River Basin Ecosystem Restoration Study, a larger habitat restoration effort undertaken by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Westchester County and the Army Corps.  The Corps conducts research and provides technical services and planning guidance to states, Native American tribes and local governments on the management of water-based and related land resources.

(via the New York Daily News)

Almost everyone knows that the US Army Corps of Engineers builds water resource projects.

Not so well known, however, is that the Corps also provides assistance to help states, eligible Native American Indian tribes, and local governments prepare their own plans and initiate their own actions to manage their water and related land resources.”

February 4, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

John McLaughlin on Penn and Fountain Landfills

John McLaughlin gave a rich and informative talk Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Exchange, discussing the development of his ecological design for the Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue Landfills along Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay coast.  Our thanks to the many folks who came out to hear John talk about his work, and, of course, to John himself.

Much of the discussion focused on the takeaway lessons of ecological restoration on landfills.  Among them:

  • trees roots did not penetrate the landfill cap but spread laterally;
  • when you need to make use of an enormous volume of soil, it’s cheapest to generate that soil yourself–in Penn and Fountain’s case, by mixing compost with sand;
  • careful attention to soil composition, and to its variation for different plant communities, is critical; so is contractor familiarity with restoration practices.

Urban Omnibus has also posted a brief recap of the talk.  A PDF of the full presentation is available here.  No audio from this talk, but if you’re interested in hearing John speak about the project, WNYC recorded this interview with him in 2007.

January 29, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suncheon International Wetlands Center design


Gansam Architects’ G.lab* has designed a visitor’s center to host the 2.8 million annual visitors to Korea’s Suncheon wetlands, which, at more than 8,700 acres, make up the world’s fifth largest tidal flat.  The proposed design for a Suncheon International Wetlands Center structure is based on the imprints left by receding tides, and the 90,000 sq ft complex would be green-roofed, daylit and stilted above the wetlands so as to reduce impact on the ecosystem.  Still, our New York State regulatory context makes us wonder how much shade will be cast on the ecosystem lying under the complex, and if that wouldn’t have a negative impact.  Gansam’s site isn’t all in English, so it’s hard to seek out further detail.  No word on whether or when the project is expected to be built.

(via Inhabitat and Dezeen)

January 28, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

Another take on best architecture of the decade

Architecture and urbanism blog mammoth has compiled its review of the best architecture of the past decade.  It’s a refreshing list because of its inclusion of projects that stretch outside of what is typically considered ‘architecture’–the Large Hadron Collider, Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System, the MIT Media Lab’s City Car, the iPhone.

[T]he items on this list have been selected to represent some of the most hopeful trends which impinge upon the territory of architecture (and, occasionally, landscape architecture, as the constant and intentional conflation of the two disciplines which is a mammoth trademark continues).  You’ll discover that our criticism of boring lists consists primarily in their being confined to (a) buildings and (b) things built by architects, though our list includes both buildings and things built by architects. In fact, “favorite” might be a better way to describe this list than “best”, but we’ve stuck with “best” because it’s more fun, as you can’t argue about “favorites”.

Field Operations‘ design of Freshkills Park also ranks within the list.

January 27, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Freshkills Park Talk: Tuesday, January 26th

The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues on Tuesday with John McLaughlin, Director of Ecological Services for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  John designed and oversees the ecological reclamation of the Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills, sited along Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn.  Together, the two landfills, which operated from the late 1950s and early 1960s through the early 1980s, comprise 400 acres and contain millions of tons of waste–primarily residential waste and construction and demolition debris.  As with other landfills in the City and elsewhere, there grew concern about the impact of the landfill on adjoining populations and ecosystems.   After a commitment from the City to address these concerns, ecological rehabilitation began in 2004, under John’s managment.  The sites will ultimately be opened to public access as natural areas.

The rehabilitation work has been a massive and fascinating undertaking–it was featured in The New York Times in September.  John will discuss the history of the two landfill sites, the development of their reclamation plans and the lessons learned from the project.  The talk will be co-hosted by the Metropolitan Exchange, an architecture, urban planning and research cooperative in downtown Brooklyn.

Tuesday, January 26, 6:30 p.m. @ the Metropolitan Exchange
33 Flatbush Avenue, 6th floor, Brooklyn

January 22, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More green roofs & green walls

The CaixaForum Living Wall in Madrid, Spain, created by horticulturalist Patrick Blanc

Web Ecoist showcases some incredible feats in green roof and, especially, green wall design around the world.  These are always fun and inspiring image galleries, even when the projects seem slightly misguided.  At their best, green roofs and walls not only serve as aesthetic amentities, but also provide insulation, purify air and reduce storm water runoff.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Unnatural History of Salt Marshes

A lecture on the biology of salt marshes, tonight at the Arsenal.

Natural habitats and ecosystems are delicate things, and in this lecture, you’ll learn the natural history of salt marshes and their plants and animals, along with the “unnatural history” of how humans have altered and damaged them physically, chemically, and biologically. The presentation is given by Judith Weiss, a professor of biological science at Rutgers University and an expert on estuarine biology. She recently co-authored the book Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History, and it will be available for purchase at the event.

Wednesday, January 13, 6pm
Central Park Arsenal, 3rd Floor
64th St. at 5th Ave.
Admission is free

January 13, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment