Freshkills Park Blog

The City Concealed

The newest episode of PBS Thirteen’s online video series The City Concealed features Freshkills Park.  Park Administrator Eloise Hirsh gives a guided tour of the site and its history, punctuating the scenic drive with a look around the landscape of the future South Park and a view into the Department of Sanitation’s waste byproduct treatment facilities.

June 4, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | Leave a comment

Photographers at Fresh Kills

The interior of a garbage barge is cleaned, Fresh Kills 2001. Photo by Michael Falco

On Saturday, we woke up REALLY early to take a group of professional photographers out on a tour of the Freshkills Park site and catch some prime morning light.  What we got was morning fog, at least for half the morning, but our pros still shot some interesting stuff.  We hope to share some of those images in the future and to do more photo tours of the site–we’re thinking late summer or early fall for the next one.  If you’re a photographer who would be interested in participating, let us know.

Meantime, some of the most dramatic and beautiful existing photos of the site have been taken by Michael Falco, who had exclusive photographic access to Fresh Kills Landfill operations both before and after 9/11.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 1 Comment

Robert Moses on Fresh Kills


Here’s great find from our archives: a November 1951 proposal for development at Fresh Kills issued under legendary Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.  The City of New York began filling in Fresh Kills in 1948, initially with the idea of depositing “clean fill” there for three years to make the land developable.  The 1951 Moses plan proposed a series of uses in the area: 100 acres of parks, arterials, and public works, 100 acres of private residential development and a huge industrial zone along the west shore.  Some aspects of the plan were eventually adopted, like the construction of the West Shore Expressway (Moses was the force behind construction of most of the city’s expressways), but most were not.  Landfilling at Fresh Kills continued over the next 50 years.

The proposal is a fascinating read–and also a reminder of how terrific 1950s graphic design sensibilities were.


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

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.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog à blog: critique of the Freshkills Park design

Just found this on Where: a critical response to the Freshkills Park plan prompted by last November’s New York Magazine feature.  The thrust of the critique is that the Field Operations’ design of Freshkills Park will create a landscape that can be falsely “consumed without guilt:”

All the capping and veiling and the sealing tight are carried out not only to elude dealing with material run-off of the waste, but also to distract from what that waste means and implies and reflects (the architects and the city want to avoid any leaks, physical or moral).

While we don’t speak for Field Operations, we think it would be a shame to lose scope of the site’s historic role in the city’s waste chain.  Capping the landfill is not an aesthetic or moral choice–it’s federally mandated–but we have chosen for our arts and educational programming to give due attention to landfilling and waste management.  So will future arts and educational facilities on site and interpretive signage.  A park, after all, is defined by more than its design or its designers.

Even considering the landscape apart from its programming, it would be difficult to suppress the site’s identity given the inherent unnatural topography of four enormous landfill mounds and the ongoing, long-term monitoring and maintenance of on-site Sanitation infrastructure like landfill gas wells, gas flare stations and landfill byproduct processing facilities.  There are the views, too: from atop those elegantly designed 150- to 200-foot mounds, park visitors will have bird’s-eye vistas of the Staten Island Waste Transfer Station, the Fresh Kills Compost Facility and the DSNY Crushing and Screening Facility, all situated adjacent to the park for the foreseeable future.  Not to mention Carteret, NJ’s tank farms dotting the shore of the very industrial Arthur Kill.  There’s no ignoring the context in which Freshkills Park is situated and the significance of the site in that context.

The critique sets up a dichotomy between making a place better and learning from it, but we think the Field Operations design allows for both.  It lets the public feel comfortable entering this space that was once a source of shame and experiencing the scope–and the grandeur–of a site they’ve helped to create, but until now have been unable to see or even conceptualize.  This is our opinion, anyway, but we’re biased.  There’s been a bit of dialogue about this issue already. What do you think?

March 27, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 5 Comments

Anniversaries and due credit


The last barge of garbage arrives at Fresh Kills Landfill, March 22, 2001.

With the 8th anniversary of the closure of Fresh Kills Landfill coming up, the Staten Island Advance’s blog, The Staten Island Notebook, published this story reviewing the steps preceding the landfill’s closure.  The story singles out one man, former Fresh Kills crane operator John Leverock, as a possible progenitor of the idea to close Fresh Kills and to containerize and export the city’s waste, as the current Solid Waste Management Plan prescribes.  As with most good ideas, it’s not clear whether Leverock’s impassioned and detailed 1987 letter to higher-ups at the Department of Sanitation was the actual inspiration for the plan, or whether the idea germinated independently.

Who knows where ideas come from or how they travel? People seem to possess a natural resistance to new ideas, probably because they oftentimes require change. A fellow named Howard Aiken once observed: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

March 18, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back, seeing art

In 2001 the Snug Harbor Cultural Center’s Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art launched an exhibition as a response to the closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill.  19 artists and artist-teams responded with “Fresh Kills: Artists Respond to the Closure of the Staten Island Landfill,” a collection of paintings, sculpture, photographs, videos and conceptual works, some of which are directly about Fresh Kills while others deal more generally about environmental issues.

A small sample of work taken from the exhibit can be found on our flickr page.

Alexis Rockman BARN OWL, 2001 Leachate and polymer on paper, 9 x 12 inches

Alexis Rockman BARN OWL, 2001 Leachate and polymer on paper, 9 x 12 inches

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Fresh Kills in graphic detail

Popular Science blog has posted a thoughtful and informative graphic exposition of the Fresh Kills site.  There’s a lot of information to communicate when we’re talking about Freshkills Park, so we appreciate the effort to make it more comprehensible through the comic format.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment