Special Projects Intern: Saumitra Sinha
Saumitra Sinha worked with fellow Cornell University student Yating Ru to conduct an Observational Survey of the New Springville Greenway this summer. They developed and implemented a Greenway usage survey to better understand how Freshkills Park’s 3.2 mile New Springville Greenway is providing more opportunities for transportation and recreation and how the community is embracing those options.
What is your name and title?
Hello! My name is Saumitra Sinha, I am a Special Projects Intern along with my classmate from Cornell University, Yating Ru.
What are you working on?
Many New Yorkers have only known Freshkills to be the large landfill in the heart of Staten Island, and have negative connotations associated with it. The Freshkills Park Project along with converting the landfill into a park, is changing its perception through multiple ways which integrate art, science and urban planning. Along with the art, cultural and educational programs, projects like the New Springville Greenway and the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields integrate Freshkills into the daily lives of the people and make the park an asset to the community.
I am currently working with Yating on the evaluation of the Greenway along Richmond Avenue and the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields. First, we will design a survey and create a methodology that can be used to assess the projects in the short-term and be used to understand their impact over time. We will observe and survey the different ways in which people use these facilities at different times of the day. The analysis will tell us the positive impacts of the projects on health and the environment which in turn will help inform how to enhance them.
Although I am learning a lot from this work, there are a lot of other things for me to absorb. It is remarkable to see how the vision, will and passion of the staff here are guiding the long-term process of the physical transformation of the park and giving it a new identity. Besides the work, I really value learning about the journey each person working on this project took which led them here, and how that experience is adding to the project in a unique way.
It is exciting to be working on Freshkills Park and a huge privilege to be able to contribute to this ambitious project, even in a temporary way.
What drew you to Freshkills Park?
With all the harm cities do to the environment, I am fascinated by how Freshkills is a project which remedies that and facilitates the return of a native ecosystem.
Before I joined the City and Regional Planning program at Cornell as a master’s student, I worked as an architect in India for two and a half years. I had worked on some eco-tourism projects in the wetlands of the Northern part of India and also did some research work on industrial-brownfield remediation. The Freshkills Park Project integrates both creation of wetlands and brownfield remediation which is very interesting to me. In fact, in my work on industrial-brownfield remediation, we had used Freshkills as a case study. It is also my love for nature, birds in particular, that drew me to apply for the project. I hope that I won’t get distracted while I am doing field work.
What’s one way to send less waste to landfills?
If enough people do something small to reduce waste, overall, it will have a large impact. It may not be realistic to expect people to suddenly take every measure possible to reduce their consumption and waste. But it is certainly important to make people realize that every bit counts. People are becoming more sensitive about environmental issues and are taking measures to recycle, reuse and do composting. Small things like that and understanding that there can be multiple uses for discarded items can really help a lot. It is also important for small businesses to promote reusing materials and reducing waste. For example, for takeout in restaurants, customers can be incentivized to get their own boxes, or to encourage people to get reusable bags when buying groceries.
I don’t really have a favorite color, but I really enjoy the colors on the horizon during dusk.