This passed weekend I went on a tour of the future Fresh Kills Park. I had lots of questions, or I thought I did, but most of my questions could be better answered by scientists. So instead, I enjoyed the view. You too can go on a tour, so sign up here. It lasts about an hour, but the whole adventure will take you longer. Especially if you arrived via MTA bus.
Funny thing about traveling somewhere new, like Staten Island, you never know when your stop is coming or has gone. Now I've done it, now I know, but there was some anxiety there for awhile. I took the S79 from 4th Ave and 86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It seems like a short trip on the map, but it takes about 45-60 minutes with all the stops. It is nice to go over the Verrazano with your monthly metro card instead of paying 11 bucks for the toll. So one bus ride to the Eltingville Transit Center makes Fresh Kills Park a fairly easy adventure for Brooklynites.
Fresh Kills was the 20th century landfill for NYC brought to us by Robert Moses and our unstoppable ability to produce trash. These are shovels left over from its hay day. I hear one will remain for roadside display.
In every way, Fresh Kills is a technological landscape. Its imported skin of soil conceals 50 years of mounded and compressed trash. You can find a description of the cap system on the Fresh Kills Park website. It's as artificial as Central Park, but in a monolithic way. In its current state, it is both ecologically simpler and technologically more complex than Central Park. Settlement of waste, gas production and capture, liquid leachate capture and treatment, water testing, not to mention the capping technology. After 30 years, the time frame for constructing this park, we can show the states that are taking our trash the ins and outs of topping it with a park.
This is one facility amongst several, designed to process and refine the gases produced by the anaerobic breakdown of the trash.
(click on for larger size) shows the twin stacks of the burn-off plant in the middle ground. Hard to see, but deep in the distance is lower Manhattan and Jersey City. Up close is one of the many gas well heads in a field of weeds and grasses. This view is from South Mound which may be called South Park later on.
(and in this case, the top) when the information states that everything is designed for good drainage so that water does not collect and permeate the barrier. It's possible I don't know my grass from my ass, so maybe those aren't wetland grasses. Its also possible that the barrier and growing medium are holding water above the trash mound, saturating the soil in spots. But I am just guessing here -scientist needed.
On our drive to the other mound, we passed the tidal creek. Our tour guide was eager to point out the Osprey nest.
William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, a small parcel of tidal marsh and some woods that will essentially be absorbed into Fresh Kills Park. I tried to visit the refuge last year, while locals on the tour and our tour guide suggested it was highly overgrown and in disuse.
On the North Mound, looking east, you can see the East Mound still being capped. Imagine how much fill and soil it takes to cover these mounds. To the right is the gas burn-off stacks we saw earlier from the south. Again, click on the photo for a larger image.
Other landfills have been made into parks, such as Flushing Corona Park -once a dilapidated ash dump, but it's the scale of the systems in this new landscape that make it interesting. It is a laboratory for ecological concerns and brown-field re-development. It is both in-place as a series of large mounds situated in post-glacial moraine landscape and out of place as a series gas well-heads on stepped mounds of unforested expanse.
Most importantly, Fresh Kills Park shouldn't lose its history to it's new park-i-ness. Yeah, sure -it's a great redevelopment of a 50 year eye and nose sore, but if we forget how we got here, while we pay billions to ship our trash to far away states that one day will say no more, we will back into the same old place with garbage up to our ears.