Freshkills Park Blog

Northala Fields Park

When we first caught sight of London’s Northala Fields Park, which opened in May 2008, the similarity in topography to Fresh Kills set off instant recognition–this is filled land.  The park’s construction included the creation of four man-made hills filled with construction debris from local projects including the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium and the construction of a nearby shopping center.  Transport of this waste to the Northala site saved considerable money over its export to a remote landfill, and the corresponding £6 million went to supporting park development.  Almost everything on the site is recycled from the original construction sites–paths, piers, soil.  The tallest mound stands 84 feet high.

The design is by London-based Form Associates.  Landscape-gawking blog Vulgare has put together a handsome collection of photos of the site scoured from various online sources.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , | 1 Comment

City as garbage as City

An inverse representation of the Statue of Liberty, from Terreform's proposal.

A design proposal that seemed almost inevitable: New York-based architects Terreform propose the employment of automated robots in reusing garbage sited within the Fresh Kills Landfill to construct buildings and islands.  The robots, refashioned from existing industrial equipment, would compact garbage into stackable units and be assembled like building blocks.

Wall-E, anyone?  The firm’s proposal, Rapid Re(f)use, bears uncanny similarity to the animated robot’s activities, of course; their cleverness is really rendering the film’s scenario in real world architectural terms to reflect meaningfully on the relationship between the city and its waste.  Terreform posits that the entire volume of the Fresh Kills Landfill, in addition to waste newly generated and collected, could be used to construct seven landmasses equivalent in size to Manhattan island.  A provocative idea, for sure, and fodder for further academic discourse.

To be clear, though, we’re sticking to the park project.

(via Inhabitat)

February 1, 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

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

Garbage Problems

The model for a playful student design envisioning the future of Fresh Kills Landfill as a "Garbage City" complete with a waste-to-energy plant, farms, a super highway and "pinky man hotels" (above) where residents may live for free.

In 2002, a year after the Department of Sanitation and and the Municipal Arts Society announced the design competition for the reuse of the Fresh Kills landfill, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) embarked on an investigative project called Garbage Problems aimed at understanding the processes behind waste management in New York City.  Working in collaboration with students from City-As-School high school, CUP produced a variety of compelling educational materials: a playful model and design plan for the reuse of the landfill called “Garbage City“; a 30 minute video on the project; and “The Making of Garbage Problems,” a large-format collage brochure explaining the project and providing a variety of resources on waste management in the wake of the closure of Fresh Kills.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Agnes Denes retrospective

The artist, standing within "Wheatfield--A Confrontation," at the Battery Park Landfill, 1982.

Philosophy in the Land II, an exhibition featuring photography, drawings and prints by artist Agnes Denes spanning the last 50 years, is on view at the Leslie Tonkonow Gallery in Manhattan until January 16th.  Denes is a pioneer of the environmental art movment whose ecological and philosophical interests surfaced in her 1968 piece Rice/Tree/Burial, which has been described as “the first site-specific piece anywhere with ecological concerns.” Also included in the exhibition are photos of her iconic Wheatfield–A Confrontation, a field of wheat planted and harvested by the artist in 1982 on the site of the Battery Park Landfill, now Battery Park City in lower Manhattan.  Commissioned by Public Art Fund, Denes created Wheatfield over a period of four months and described the piece as “a work that addresses human values and misplaced priorities.”  The exhibition also includes many of the artist’s drawings and prints exploring visual ideas across a range of disciplines, including mathematics, philosophy and science.

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

Canadian landfill to be world’s largest pollinator park

Honeybee (Apis mellifera), photo by macropoulos via flickr

City planners in Guelph, Ontario have approved a master plan to transform a 200-acre decommissioned landfill into the world’s largest pollinator park.  The former Eastview Road Landfill, which operated as a municipal dump from 1961 to 2003, has been capped and outfitted with a methane capturing system that converts landfill gas into usable energy.  Filled land, which constitutes about half the site, will host some recreational amenities but primarily shrub and meadow plantings that provide habitat for pollinator species such as bees, butterflies, bats and birds.  These species are surprisingly vital to food production: pollination research suggests that three out of four flowering plants require animal pollinators in order to produce seed and fruit.

Pollinator populations have been in decline in recent years.  Honeybees, in particular, have experienced what beekeepers call “colony collapse disorder“; other causes for decline include pesticide misuse, light and air pollution, hive destruction and farming practices that destroy habitat.

In conjunction with non-profit group Pollination Guelph, the city is developing a plant palette with a wide enough range of blooming seasons to accommodate both early and late pollinators.  Other park amenities include toboggan runs, a trail network, demonstration gardens, basketball and volleyball courts, soccer and football fields, a natural ice rink and a playground.

December 11, 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

Pulau Semakau

About 5 miles off the coast of mainland Singapore, adjacent to two mangrove habitats, a small island is being created out of the country's waste, section by section, at a rate of just under 2000 tons per day.

Semakau Landfill, the world’s first offshore landfill and Singapore’s only waste destination, has been described by Singapore’s government as “Scenic Waste Disposal.”  The site has been open to the public for recreational activities since 2005 and has been envisioned as an eco-park featuring renewable energy generation and educational facilities.  Commissioned in 1999, the landfill was designed to work in harmony with the bio-diverse surrounding areas; it physically connects the islands of Pulau Sakeng and Pulau Semakau.  A perimeter bund includes an impermeable membrane, marine clay and rock layers, which prevent waste and its byproducts from leaching into the surrounding water.

Initially expected to reach full capacity in 2040, the landfill’s lifespan has been extended due to the country’s efforts at waste reduction.  Singapore now has a goal of recycling 60% of its waste by 2012.

(via Sustainable Design Update and Waste Management World)

November 30, 2009 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trash begets fuel on a large scale

Partners Waste Management and Linde Group have begun processing fuel at the world’s largest Landfill Gas (LFG) to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, located at Altamont Landfill near Livermore, CA.  Waste Management–the leading US waste services company and largest national operator of refuse and recycling trucks–collects the garbage, and Linde, an engineering company, purifies and liquifies the LFG produced by the waste.  LFG goes through a purification process and is then fed into a natural gas liquifier, where it is cooled below the natural gas boiling point of -260 degrees Fahrenheit, yielding LNG.  Unlike the energy harvested from LFG at the Freshkills Park site, which is used for residential energy needs, the Altamont facility’s Liquified Natural Gas can be used as a gasoline or diesel fuel substitute in heavy duty vehicles.

(via Treehugger)

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