A former marshland and landfill, New York City‚Äôs Freshkills Park (FKP) is being transformed into a productive and beautiful landscape, exemplifying the ability to restore our natural environment.
Freshkills Park is currently under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which is responsible for implementing the Park‚Äôs development plan over the next thirty years. FKP, at 2,200 acres, is the largest park to be developed in New York City in the last 100 years.
At the heart of Freshkills Park is the challenge of how our post-industrial landscapes ‚Äď particularly those ravaged by consumption and trash ‚Äď can be remediated and renewed. It exemplifies an opportunity to rebuild ecosystems and provide a vast playground for one of the world‚Äôs largest cities, while raising awareness of environmental stewardship. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR)‚Äôs goals for the project are (as quoted from FKP literature):
‚ÄĘ transforming the site into a safe, beautiful, and accessible park, the unique operations of which are transparent to its users
‚ÄĘ promoting responsible and innovative strategies for environmental sustainability through demonstration, instruction, and collaborative investigation
‚ÄĘ providing amenities and attractions that both distinguish the park and draw visitors at local, regional, and international scales
‚ÄĘ reconnecting the site to its natural history, local ecosystems, and neighboring communities
Minimizing the impact of waste and hazards on the landscape involves applying a final cover or ‚Äúcap‚ÄĚ to the landfill, collecting landfill gases, collecting and cleaning the leachate (the chemical-laden liquid that results from water percolating through decomposing landfill waste) and managing stormwater. The final cover itself involves layers of soil and impermeable liners with drainage layers to ensure that all waste material is completely separated from the vegetated surface above.
In addition to these engineering strategies, the park is being developed predominantly as a wildlife reserve, with five smaller park areas hosting varied types of ecosystems that previously were native to this part of Staten Island.
Freshkills Park is important as an example of how landfills can be converted into beautiful landscapes. Through this process, what was once waste can be reclaimed for public use. The history of FKP is also important to its current transformation: as a former marshland, the park has the opportunity to reconstruct some of the habitats lost after landfill operations began. As the site that received the non-recyclable debris from 9/11, it also has an added cultural and historic value of remembrance.
There are currently 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 retired municipal landfills according to the Environmental Protection Agency, showing that there are ample opportunities for innovation in landfill remediation. Because FKP is one of the largest and is located in a high profile city such as New York City, it has the fortune of being in the public eye as an example for those to follow.
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