Freshkills Park Blog

Greenbelt Native Plant Center, yesterday and today

The Parks Department’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, sits on the site of what was once the Mollenhoff Family Farm.  From 1911 to 1992, the Molenhoffs operated a 32-acre vegetable farm that was well-renowned among small growers for its innovations in farming methods, including a mechanical watering system and steam-heated greenhouses.

In 1950, the US Army shot an ‘educational’ film about the Mohlenoff farm to be shown in Japan, extolling the virtues of the American farmer and the prosperity that small family businesses are afforded in a free society.  It’s propaganda, but it’s also a terrific portrait of 1950s New York City and American values.  Staten Island is described as “64 square miles of small towns and spacious farmland where life moves at a calm pace.”  The film is available for streaming online, near the bottom of the GNPC’s history page.

The Native Plant Center has been the talk of the town recently–literally, it was featured in last week’s Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker for its efforts to collect and archive seed native to the New York metropolitan region.  The article is only available online to subscribers.  It’s in the November 16th print edition.

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

Gotham and its Garbage, tomorrow

NYU’s Robin Nagle, Anthropologist-in-Residence of the NYC Department of Sanitation, will be giving a talk tomorrow evening called Gotham and its Garbage: What it Was, What it Is and What It Might Become, at the Bloomingdale Library on the Upper West Side and sponsored by the Park West Neighborhood History Group.  Robin is a terrific speaker and knows an enormous amount about New York City’s waste management system.  Should be a great talk.

Tuesday, November 17, 6:00pm
Bloomingdale Library
150 West 100th St, bet Columbus & Amsterdam, 2nd floor

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

Wrestling with Moses

This Friday, journalist and land policy expert Anthony Flint will be discussing and signing his new book, Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City at the Greenbelt Nature Center on Staten Island.  The book recounts how urban activist Jacobs helped prevent the construction of an elevated highway through her West Village neighborhood.

Robert Moses was a key player in the development of Staten Island’s highways and bridges, as he was in the rest of New York City.  He was also influential in the opening of the Fresh Kills Landfill.  Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was an influential urbanist and vocal critic of Moses’ ambitious urban renewal plans.   Should be a fun event and a lively discussion.

Friday, November 6, 7:30 pm at the Greenbelt Nature Center, at the intersection of Brielle and Rockland Avenues on Staten Island.  Light refreshments will be served.  Tickets are $15.  Call (718) 351-3450 to reserve.

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

Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Freshkill”

UbuWeb, the large online archive of avant-garde art, has posted a streaming video of Gordon Matta-Clark‘s 1972 “Freshkill,” filmed at the Fresh Kills Landfill.  The short film depicts the destruction of the artist’s truck by a bulldozer.  The video is also available for download as an MP4.


October 20, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 2 Comments

On Manahatta

Landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson talks at TED about the Manahatta Project:

October 15, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | Leave a comment

17th century woodland, at NYU today


The New York Times features a 2,200 square foot native woodland garden being planted on the NYU campus.  George Reis, NYU’s supervisor of sustainable landscapes, was taken with the idea of evocative and site-specific planting, as well as with the Manahatta Project, an exhibition that envisions the island of Manhattan upon Henry Hudson’s arrival 400 years ago.  Reis submitted his garden proposal to NYU’s Class of 2008 for consideration as their class gift.

So this spring, Mr. Reis and Mr. Morrison, with the help of a small student crew, began planting 2,000 plants that were all thriving on Manhattan in the 17th century.

Beneath the lindens and a Japanese maple, sweeps of hay-scented ferns undulate against waves of New York ferns, interrupted ferns and Christmas ferns, each species planted en masse to accentuate subtle differences in shape, texture and color.

The scene sounds romantic, but even absent floral nostalgia, native plants are vital to the development of sustainable ecosystems.  We’re eager to check out this garden.

September 25, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , | Leave a comment

Mary Miss

A large-scale 1973 installation at the Battery Park Landfill, now Battery Park City.

A large-scale 1973 installation at the Battery Park Landfill, now Battery Park City.

Mary Miss makes site-specific artwork aimed at making abstractions like site history and environmental function tangible to the public.  Her work, from the 1960s through the present, has engaged issues and practices of landscape, architecture, infrastructure and ecology.  She has participated in a number of park design projects, including proposals for New York City’s Riverside Park South and Orange County California’s Great Park.  Her most trafficked work is installed in the Union Square Subway Station, where red frames of varying shapes and sizes call attention to the lost industrial history of the space.

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


Technicolor poison, image by Julie Bargmann.

Images by Julie Bargmann showcase the site's acid mine drainage and how its passive water treatment ponds now filter out contaminants.

Another poster child for the reclamation of disturbed lands: AMD&ART Park in Vintondale, PA.  By the mid-’90s, coal mining in this part of Appalachia had resulted in severe acid mine drainage (AMD) into waterways and general public resignation to a major environmental hazard.  A long-neglected 35-acre site that had hosted both a coal mining operation and a town dump was particularly riddled with AMD and caught the imagination of historic preservationist T. Allan Comp.  Over the following 10 years, and with the eventual financial support of the EPA, Comp brought together a diverse group of residents, scientists, artists, and volunteers in an effort to use art and ecological design to rehabilitate the contaminated land and return it into the custody of the local community.

Open since 2005, AMD&ART Park includes picnic areas, baseball and soccer fields and a volleyball court; a series of passive water treatment ponds that progressively draws contaminants out of the site’s water; seven acres of now-vibrant wetlands that thrive on the treated water; and various ecological art installations that reflect on the site’s history and transformation, including a native tree arboretum called “Litmus Garden” whose trees range in fall foliage to mirror the colors of the water at each stage of the treatment system (red, orange and yellow, green and white).  The park recently won a prestigious Phoenix Award for excellence in brownfield remediation and redevelopment.  This 2007 article in Orion Magazine offers a more complete narrative about the site and its transformation.

(via Pruned)

August 10, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Manhattan, primeval

ps version

Digital re-creation by Markley Boyer

For the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival at Manahatta Island, the Wildlife Conservation Society and ecologist Eric W. Sanderson have prepared the Manahatta Project, a massive GIS-based portrait of the topography and ecology of Manhattan as it was in 1609. The research behind the Manahatta Project drew from historical maps,  soil cores, tree rings, contemporary field work and a variety of historical accounts. The centerpiece of the now-finished decade-long project is a digital interactive map. The project has also produced lesson plans for grade school and high school students which draw on the new body of knowledge on Manhattan’s original ecology. Beyond providing a historical and educational resource, the project is intended to spur conversation about the present and future urban ecologies of New York City.

The project is being showcased at the Museum of the City of New York now through October 12.

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