2016 in Review
This past year marked the fifteen-year anniversary of the Fresh Kills Landfill closure. In March of 2001, the final barge of household garbage arrived at the landfill. Later that year, the City of New York announced an international design competition for the development of a plan for Freshkills Park. Since then, the project has served as a reminder that we can rebuild places we’ve compromised, and that with planning and resources we can create a brighter future for our communities and the environment.
The 2,200-acre park has been opening in sections since 2012, with Schmul Playground, Owl Hollow Soccer Fields, and the New Springville Greenway already completed. In 2016, Freshkills Park continued to take shape as the development of larger landmark projects moved forward. Design for North Park Phase 1 was completed in March, and construction is expected to begin in early 2017. Under the new Anchor Parks initiative, Freshkills Park was selected as one of five parks to receive $30 million from the City to fund major improvements. This investment has allowed NYC Parks to begin the planning and design process for opening a section of South Park.
Freshkills Park’s Art program increased its public impact with expanded on-site performances and workshops and an off-site exhibit and programming. “Landscape in Motion” displayed Staten Island Advance contest-winning photographs, historic images, and 360-degree panorama experiences at the Staten Island Arts Culture Lounge in the St. George Ferry Terminal from September 22-December 7. Through a juried process, designers Slanted Studios & MTN GODS were selected to develop a new public installation that will educate and excite New Yorkers about the evolving park project. The group is now working with Freshkills Park on design development.
The Education program rolled out exciting additions in 2016. For the first time, 6th-12th grade students were able to participate in water monitoring activities during their field trips at the park. The data they collect are helping staff keep track of how the ecological conditions in the park are changing over time. The park also introduced students to the new Mobile Education Lab, which is a creative workspace inside a renovated trailer.
NYC Parks offered three Discovery Days at Freshkills Park. These free open house events provided opportunities for the public to explore normally closed sections of the park. More than 5,000 people were able to go behind the scenes and enjoy bird watching, bike riding, kayaking, and tours where they learned about the landfill-to-park project.
In 2016, the Research program made progress in its work to better understand the behavior of grassland bird species at the park, and began a study to assess which grassland habitats they prefer and why. Additionally, researchers from the College of Staten Island operated the first bird banding station at the park and banded over 20 species of birds, including orchard orioles, hairy woodpeckers, and yellow warblers. The information they gather is added to large scale data sets that increase our knowledge and understanding of bird productivity. Parks researchers also began ongoing work to survey the fish species living in the park’s waterways through a seining program. The data provide insight into not only the health of the fish populations, but also the food availability for wading birds like the great egrets and great blue herons seen foraging in the park.
This year demonstrated that a lot has changed since the last barge of household garbage arrived at the landfill in 2001. As Freshkills Park gradually unfolds, the park’s programming has continued to gain momentum, encouraging New Yorkers to think deeply about where we’ve been and look forward to where we’re going.