Freshkills Park Blog

Mount Trashmore Park, Virginia Beach, VA

Yes, its official name is Mount Trashmore Park. Virginia Beach is home to one of the earliest conversions of a contemporary sanitary landfill to parkland in the US.  The 165-acre site operated for many years as a landfill for waste originating from all over the east coast.  High costs of filling and limited capacity led to the landfill’s closure by 1971.  Guided by the vision of the director of Virginia’s Department of Health, conversion to parkland proceeded until 1973, when the site was opened to the public.  The park now boasts 1.5 miles of trails, picnic grounds, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, two man-made lakes for fishing and a 24,000-square-foot skate park.  It is one of Virginia’s most popular parks, attracting approximately 1 million visitors annually.

Groundwater testing at the site has shown no impact from landfill operations.  Landfill gas is collected by underground infrastructure–but unlike the Freshkills Park site, the gas at Mount Trashmore is not harvested for energy; it is released at synchronized intervals.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Restoration of marsh islands in Jamaica Bay

The New York Times features a long-term partnership between the National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers to restore the rapidly disappearing salt marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, the 26-square-mile lagoon bordered by Brooklyn and Queens. Now comprising 800 acres altogether, the series of islands in the Bay spanned more than 16,000 acres a century ago. As part of a larger project to restore parts of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, and especially Upper and Lower New York Bay, the Army Corps is importing rock, clay, sand, and silt dredged from the widening of the Panama Canal to shore up Jamaica Bay’s islands and help re-establish plant and animal habitat.

The article also offers a good, brief environmental history of Jamaica Bay, including early 20th century plans to make it into a major seaport and mid-20th century top-down conservation efforts that led to the creation of Gateway National Recreation Area, along the bay’s coast, in 1972. Still, over half of the bay’s salt marsh has been lost since the 1950s, and many migratory birds and fish species have disappeared. Contributors to environmental degradation have been contamination from waste treatment plants, historic landfill waste seepage, highway runoff and airplane fuel from jets at JFK Airport.

Current restoration work has started on one island, Elders Point, where the Army Corps estimates that 42 acres of wetlands have been restored, with another 34 acres expected by the end of the year. Another restoration effort on the island called Yellow Bar Hassock is being prepared.

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

Stearns Quarry Park, Chicago IL

Photo by find a city to live in via flickr

27-acre Stearns Quarry Park opened in 2009 in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.  The site was used as a limestone quarry from 1833 to 1969 by the Illinois Stone and Lime Company, after which it served as a municipal landfill: from 1969 to 1974, dirt, gravel, brick and construction debris were delivered to the site, filling the hole excavated by mining operations.

Guided by a design produced by site design group and landscape architecture firm D.I.R.T. Studio, the City of Chicago began park construction in 2005.  As at the Freshkills Park site, coupling landfill closure and park construction required compliance with state regulations about, among other things, topsoil cleanliness and depth.  More than 40,000 cubic yards of topsoil were imported to the site.  Hundreds of trees were planted.  Boardwalks over wetland areas were made of recyled plastic and wood.  A stormwater containment system was constructed to catch and treat water before channeling it into the park’s wetlands and pond.

The completed park features a fishing pond and fountain, athletic fields, running paths, a hiking and sledding mound, public event space, a host of native plantings and related birds and wildlife, and an exhibited collection of 400 million-year-old fossils of aquatic animals.  The Chicago Park District has put together an MP3 audio tour of the park, guided by a planner and historian, who reviews the site’s history and its current features.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | 2 Comments

Gas Works Park, Seattle WA

Gas Works Park in Seattle, WA is located on the 19.1-acre site of a former Seattle Gas Light Company coal gasification plant.  The plant opened in 1906 and closed in 1956 when the City switched to natural gas.  The site was abandoned for several years until the City purchased it in 1962; a design combining elements of historic preservation and park design was commissioned from landscape architect Richard Haag in the early 1970s.

The design was remarkable, especially at the time, for retaining and showcasing original infrastructure of the abandoned gas production facilities.  (The site now hosts the last extant remnants of coal gasification plants in the US.)  Various industrial facilities within the park were converted for new uses: the boiler house, which provided steam for gasification and compressors, became a picnic shelter; the pump house, which pumped gas throughout the facility and to customers, became the play barn; the smoke arrestor hood outside the pump house became a play structure for climbing.

An early brownfield reclamation project, the site’s soil and ground water were cleaned up through bioremediation before the site could be opened for public use.  Per state and federal requirements, waste was also removed and/or capped, and air in a portion of the site was sparged to remove benzene.  The park opened in 1975 and has been well used and loved since; today it hosts one of Seattle’s largest Fourth of July fireworks events.

April 6, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , | Leave a comment

Next Freshkills Park Talk: Tuesday, March 30th

The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues on Tuesday with a talk and slideshow by  Nathan Kensinger, a photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on the abandoned and post-industrial edges of New York City.  He’ll be sharing stories of sites along the Gowanus Canal, inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and at Fresh Kills, among others, while walking us through his beautiful images. Nathan’s photos have been featured in the New York Times, the New York Post, New York Magazine, The Staten Island Advance, and other outlets and are currently on display as part of an exhibit titled “The Gentrification of Brooklyn” at Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

The talk will be co-hosted by the Metropolitan Exchange, an architecture, urban planning and research cooperative in downtown Brooklyn.

Tuesday, March 30, 6:30 p.m. @ the Metropolitan Exchange
33 Flatbush Avenue, 6th floor, Brooklyn
No RSVP is necessary

March 26, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bamboo groves act as Urban Biofilter

Urban Biofilter, a project of environmental advocacy non-profit Earth Island Institute, aims to plant bamboo forests on brownfield sites along industrial and transportation routes.  The planted zones are intended to remediate the wastewater they are fed, reduce stormwater runoff and filter gases, contaminants and metal pollutants out of the local airshed.  The project also aims to create local jobs and industry through the sustainable harvest of bamboo, which is a quickly regenerating species, for timber production.

The group has implemented two pilot projects so far.  Last summer, it held a workshop in Tijuana in which participants lined a wastewater channel with gravel to reduce human exposure to the water and planted willow and bamboo buffer around the channel to filter contaminants from the air and water.  The group also organized the volunteer planting of a preliminary patch of bamboo in the Port of Oakland, where residents are five times more susceptible to cancer from diesel particulate matter.  Urban Biofilter has plans for a larger scale intervention in the port extending from this first plot.

(via Inhabitat)

March 18, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Eco-park to restore polluted Canarsie wetlands

Wetlands of the Paerdegat Basin, on the shore of Jamaica Bay

The City of New York has announced a $15 million project to clean up 38 acres of wetlands adjacent to the Paerdegat Basin Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Facility on Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn.  According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the project–slated for completion in 2012–will begin this Spring to improve water quality in the Paerdegat Basin by re-introducing native plants to the salt marsh and grassland habitats.

Central to the success of the project is an improved Combined Sewer Overflow facility.  The current facility is unable to treat the full volume of sewage entering the plant, forcing the overflow of untreated sewage into the Paerdegat Basin, especially during heavy rains.  Improvements will increase the capacity of the facility to 50 million gallons of raw sewage, restore the shoreline to improve storm water absorption and create a 5-acre “Ecology Park,” allowing the public access to the restored wetlands and an educational center with exhibits about coastal habitats.  The project is funded by a portion of the $220 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding received by the City for water infrastructure improvements through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

(via The New York Post and The Brooklyn Eagle)

January 19, 2010 Posted by | FKP | , , , , , | 1 Comment