View of Freshkills Park in 2010
|Location||Fresh Kills Landfill site,|
Staten Island, New York City, United States
|Nearest city||New York City|
|Area||2,200 acres (8.9 km2)|
|Operated by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
Freshkills Park is a public park being built atop a landfill reclamation project on Staten Island. At about 2,200 acres (8.9 km2), it will be the largest park developed in New York City since the 19th century. Its construction began in October 2008 and is slated to continue in phases for at least 30 years. When fully developed by 2035-37, Freshkills Park will be the second-largest park in New York City and almost three times the size of Central Park in Manhattan. The park has been designed for five major sections that accommodate a range of uses, including cultural, athletic, and educational programs. Sections of the park will be connected by a circulation system for vehicles and a network of paths for bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) is running the project with the New York City Department of Sanitation.
The landfill opened in 1948 in what was then a salt marsh in a rural agricultural area. The subsoil was made up of clay, with sand and silt as the top layer of soil. The land still contains large amounts of wildlife within the boundaries of the landfill. There were tidal wetlands, forests, and freshwater wetlands. The area, being in a swamp and wetlands, was prime for the landfill, being far removed from the rest of New York City at the time (Staten Island's connection to the rest of the city in 1947 was by ferry).
The initial plan for a temporary landfill called for Fresh Kills to be used for 20 years, then developed as a multiuse area with residential, recreational, and industrial components. At the peak of its operation, the contents of twenty barges – each carrying 650 tons of garbage – were added to the site every day. The landfill was by then the world's largest landfill.
In 2001 it was estimated that, if kept open, the landfill would have eventually become the highest point on the East Coast. Under local pressure and with support of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the landfill site was closed on March 22, 2001, but it was soon reopened due to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan in 2001. Virtually all the wreckage and debris, including all remains of the dead that were not detected at the recovery site, had to be sent to the temporarily reopened landfill for examination. Thousands of detectives and forensic evidence specialists worked for over 1.7 million hours at Fresh Kills Landfill to try to recover remnants of the 2,749 people killed in the attacks. A final count of 4,257 human remains were recovered. From those, 300 people were identified; the City's Chief Medical Examiner retains custody of all still-unidentified remains at a facility within the National 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. A memorial is being built to honor those who were not able to be identified in all of the debris from the attack. The debris was then buried in a 40-acre (160,000 m2) portion of the landfill; it is highly likely that this debris still contains undetected, fragmentary human remains. Afterward, the landfill facility was closed permanently, in anticipation of the park on the site.
International design competitions
In 2001, the New York City Department of City Planning (NYCDCP) held an international design competition following the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to find a landscape architecture firm to design the park. The competition's first round was open to all participants, and in August 2001, six landscape architecture proposals were chosen as finalists. These proposals came from the firms James Corner Field Operations, Hargreaves Associates, Mathur/da Cunha, Tom Leader Studio, and John McAslan + Partners, RIOS Associates, Inc., and Sasaki Associates. The plans proposed by all the finalists are  from the Department of City Planning.
In 2003, Field Operations was selected as the winner of the competition and was hired to produce a master plan to guide long-term development. The Draft Master Plan was prepared over the following years and released in March 2006.
Additionally, in 2011, the Land Art Generator Initiative announced Freshkills Park as the site for its upcoming design competition, LAGI-NYC 2012. Although construction of the winning design is not guaranteed, the initiative hopes to bring international attention to the aesthetic potential of renewable energy infrastructure.
In 2016, $30 million in funding was allocated for additions to the park's recreational facilities as part of the city's Anchor Parks program.
Draft Master Plan
The Draft Master Plan for Freshkills Park envisions the site as five parks in one, each with a distinct character and programming approach. It amended Field Operations' original design proposal with input gathered in meetings and workshops between the project team and local Staten Islanders, nonprofit groups, and government officials. Goals emerging from the outreach efforts and integrated into the park design include: roads to ease traffic congestion surrounding the Fresh Kills site; active recreational uses such as kayaking, horseback riding, and sports fields; and projects generating and using renewable sources of energy. The planning process also included the input of a community advisory group  consisting of local leaders and stakeholders.
The parts of the Plan are:
- The Confluence: 70 acres (280,000 m2) at the meeting point of the site’s two creeks have been designed as the center of the park. Comprising two major sections, the 50-acre (200,000 m2) Point and the 20-acre (81,000 m2) Creek Landing, the Confluence will host visitor and information centers, restaurants, event spaces and landscapes for passive recreation. Waterborne access to the area has been proposed via the waterways that previously permitted barge deliveries to the landfill.
- North Park: The 223-acre (0.90 km2) North Park will retain much of its natural character in order to expand the neighboring habitat of the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. North Park will largely be devoted to wildlife and passive recreation, though trails for biking, walking, and hiking will also be included. This area will feature a few architectural structures for birdwatching, shade for a hilltop picnic area, an eco-education center, and a floating dock for canoe access. Construction of the first section of North Park began in 2010, as is renovation of Schmul Park, a neighborhood playground bordering the Travis neighborhood.
- South Park: Like North Park, it contains a significant amount of natural woodland and wetland, but also contains ample flat, non-wetland space for more active recreational uses. The master plan for this 425-acre (1.72 km2) site programs tennis courts, mountain biking trails, athletic facilities, and an equestrian center. Construction of the Owl Hollow soccer fields, at the southern edge of South Park, began in October 2008.
- East Park: At 482 acres (1.95 km2), it is proposed to host meadows, trails, playing fields and picnic areas. A golf course is also being considered in this area as a means to generate revenue for operations. Entrances to a vehicular road system along Richmond Avenue are expected to permit traffic through East Park toward the West Shore Expressway.
- West Park: After the World Trade Center's collapse in 2001 during the September 11 attacks, around 1,200,000 short tons (1,100,000 long tons) of debris was brought to the West Park site where it was carefully screened and sifted. The search effort did not end until all discernible remains and effects were removed and taken to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York for identification and safekeeping. A monument to the September 11 attacks is planned to occupy West Park. Active recreational uses will be kept away from the monument area.
In October 2012, Schmul Park, the first of the Freshkills Park projects, opened to the public. Formerly an asphalt and chain-link fence playground, it was converted into a park with new play surfaces, basketball and handball courts, permeable substrate and concrete, and native plantings. In April 2013 the Owl Hollow Fields celebrated a "soft" opening for the four new AstroTurf fields located near the intersection of Arden Avenue and Arthur Kill Road. Two of the fields are lit at night for extended use.
A solar array will sit on 46 acres (19 ha) of land for the park. Projected to be the city's largest such array it will be able to power two thousand homes on Staten Island. A Request for Proposals for the array was released in March 2012.
Although the park is not scheduled for completion until 2035–37, the Parks Department reported that in 2010–11 two hundred different species of wildlife had been seen in the former landfill. These included red-winged blackbirds, American goldfinches, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, osprey, ring-necked pheasants, tree swallows, turkey vultures, and northern snapping turtles.
While Freshkills Park continues its development, NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park team have hosted events and programs including active recreation on site inside restricted areas. From 2010 through 2014, the highlight of these programs was the project's annual Sneak 'Peak' at where visitors had the opportunity to kayak, bike, hike, and fly kites on a closed section of the park. Beginning in 2015, the Sneak 'Peak' event was replaced by a host of programs regularly offered during the April through October season.
Landfill operations and state regulations
The Fresh Kills Landfill actively received New York City’s municipal waste from 1947 to 2001. Two of the four mounds at the site—the mounds located in North and South Parks—were capped in the late 1990s with an impermeable cover separating waste from the environment. Capping of the East Mound, which will become East Park, began in 2007 and was completed in 2011. Capping of the West Mound began in 2011 and was to proceed until 2018. The Department of Sanitation works with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to meet regulations for environmentally sound landfill closure; it will also maintain operating responsibility for on–site environmental monitoring and control systems for a minimum of 30 years after capping. NYC Parks must also meet NYSDEC’s regulations—no area of the park is permitted to open to public access until it meets state standards for public access.
NYC Parks completed and released the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) for the Freshkills Park project in May 2009. The document evaluates the entirety of the proposed project and its likely effects on the neighboring community. In compliance with state and local law, the FGEIS is designed to identify "any adverse environmental effects of proposed actions, assess their significance, and propose measures to eliminate or mitigate significant impacts". A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was also completed in October 2009, which specifically focuses on the impact of proposed road construction through the East Park section of the plan and examines alternatives to the current plan.
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