2015 Annual Report
The generous support and partnership of stakeholders, advocates, and visitors are bringing Freshkills Park to life. Thanks to the generosity of grantors, donors, and sponsors, thousands of people got to know Freshkills Park through big open site events, art installations and workshops, scientific research projects, races and bike events, environmental education programs, and a wide range of tours.
The process of building out the park continues. The New Springville Greenway opened this year, adding the popular 3.2 mile long path to the already completed projects of Schmul Park, Owl Hollow fields and North Park wetland restoration. The Freshkills Park Alliance partnership with NYC Parks and Sanitation, as well as increasing numbers of community partners, means that progress is solid and steady.
The Freshkills Park Alliance’s mission is to support the creation of the park through a broad range of recreational, cultural, scientific and educational programs. The Alliance is committed to maintaining and expanding the ways for the public to experience and support this exciting time of transformation, as the work of park building moves forward. This has been an important year, as we have strengthened our organization, our partnerships and our programs.
A Year of Firsts
COMPLETED Summer 2015
New Springville Greenway: This 3.2-mile path along the eastern edge of Freshkills Park creates bike and pedestrian access parallel to Richmond Avenue. The Greenway provided new asphalt pavement, concrete sidewalk reconstruction and improvements, and associated drainage systems, incorporating the most sustainable techniques in bio-swale design and construction.
North Park Phase 1: This 21-acre arc will be the first section to open within the former landfill boundary. It will stretch from entrances in the Travis neighborhood to the edge of Main Creek. Walking and high-speed paths will lead visitors past flowering swales and through a scenic forested plateau to an expansive picnic lawn, an overlook deck and a bird observation tower at the water’s edge.
East Park Early Access: This plan will open up 482 acres of park space for recreation. East Park has beautiful expansive meadows, freshwater wetland ponds and creeks. It has also become a favorite stopping point for some of the area’s birds, including the grasshopper sparrow. The early access plans for East Park include a pedestrian and maintenance entrance at Yukon Avenue, additional access points, security fencing, a permanent kayak launch, three and a half miles of paved roadway for biking, pathway connections for six miles of walking trails, and a wetland boardwalk.
South Park Phase 1: This proposal builds on Owl Hollow Soccer Fields to create a recreational corridor at the Park. South Park Phase 1 will include the construction of two new ballfields, a parking area, pedestrian connections and traffic access.
Roads: As a major feature of Freshkills Park, roads will provide access to the different areas of the park and create a connection between the West Shore Expressway (Route 440) and Richmond Avenue. This will open the park, provide site access, and address transportation needs of the community.
Scientific Research Program
On the 15th of May, researchers recorded their first siting of grasshopper sparrows, a state-threatened bird that has seen massive declines in New York State over the past 3 decades. In July, they were astonished to find 25+ singing males plus 20+ fledged juvenile grasshopper sparrows on East Mound, along with 200+ fledged juvenile Savannah Sparrows. The researchers also recorded Eastern Meadowlarks, Horned Larks, Spotted Sandpipers, American Woodcocks, and Killdeers this season. Dr. Richard Veit from the College of Staten Island has been studying the resurgence of grassland birds on site. Freshkills Park staff members are working with the researchers to create a grasslands habitat management plan to ensure the productivity of the habitat into the future of park development.
Researchers from New Jersey City University, the College of Staten Island, and NY/NJ Baykeeper conducted the first year of field work and pre-restoration monitoring in a study investigating the construction of a living shoreline. They used ribbed mussels along Main Creek, with biodiversity monitoring using novel environmental DNA techniques and traditional assessments.
Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service, NYC Parks, and Yale University continued their work investigating afforestation and phytoremediation at the park. They focused on a subsection of a ~10,000 MillionTrees planting that was conducted in the fall of 2015. Poplars and willows specially selected for their high growth rates and soil mediating qualities were planted, and post-planting monitoring has commenced to track tree growth and soil dynamics on an annual basis. The researchers hope to determine if these species are uniquely suited to afforestation projects in urban environments.
Researchers at the College of Staten Island continued studying the health of turtles at Freshkills Park this year. Between June and August, 91 turtles were captured in the Park’s ponds. Many of the turtles were recaptures, which indicates that the habitat is suitable to these species. Blood chemistry was also analyzed to determine accurate baseline parameters in the species.
In 2015, the Freshkills Park art program created new opportunities for artists and reached new audiences. The Alliance received a community commission from the NYC DOT Art Program and raised funds to support artist/designer Kirk Finkel’s original commission, NEST, which was fabricated with support from Staten Island MakerSpace and remained in location for 11 months.
A sculpture installed at the St. George Ferry Terminal, NEST was designed to bring Freshkills Park wildlife to the people of NYC while encouraging visitors to experience the park firsthand. The sculpture was on view along Richmond Terrace for the Ferry’s 70,000 passengers per day.
The NEST sculpture is part of a larger effort to expand awareness through offsite installations. Section Story, a digital exhibition about the transformation of Fresh Kills, received support from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2015 for unveiling in 2017.
Artist Tattfoo Tan initiated his series, New Earth Resiliency Training Module (NERTM), at Freshkills Park, made possible by an Original Work Grant from Staten Island Arts, with public funding from the New York State Council on the Arts. The series of tours and workshops highlighted climate change, preparedness and resiliency by training self-reliance and the ethos of living closer to the earth within an urban environment. Artist Susan Mills continued her UnCommon Pages field notebook-making workshops with paper made from Freshkills Park Phragmites through a partnership with the Center for Book Arts. These art projects and others have been integrated into the Park’s regular series of programs and events to reach a broader audience and speaks to the role of artists in the park project and our society.
Photographers are documenting the engineered landscape’s evolution — from landfill to park and across all the seasons in between — as part of the Capturing Change project. The series serves to generate a community- and artist-driven archive of our shared landscape and the restoration of natural systems in an ever shifting urban context. An ongoing series of photo essays are published in Urban Omnibus, an online publication dedicated to defining and enriching the culture of citymaking.
Art and cultural programs at Freshkills Park aim to promote understanding of and access to site transformation and design, while inciting socio-environmental change through education and demonstration in this landscape that is unlike any other public space in New York City. Rotating art installations and events provide opportunities to investigate, innovate and interpret the largest landfill to park project in the world through new mediums and works at the intersection of art, environment, technology and research in an evolving landscape.
Freshkills Park serves as a case study for many topics, including urban ecology, waste management, and sustainable design. In 2015, free youth environmental education programs were offered to students in schools across New York City’s five boroughs. These opportunities aimed to make Freshkills Park an environmental education topic in 3rd-12th grade classrooms and to begin to establish the park as a tangible place for generations to come.
Walking tours gave students the chance to explore a section of the park usually inaccessible to the public. While on site, students played the role of park planners as they learned about the history of what was once the world’s largest landfill and developed plans for the future park that took into account the needs of the environment and local community.
In-class presentations provided students with a general overview of site history, current developments, and future plans. Presentations include class discussion, photographs and diagrams, and a fabric landfill model that demonstrates how the landfill was capped.
Freshkills Park also partnered with New York Public Library to provide a design challenge program called Play, Plan, Prototype (PPP), developed by park staff. This project invited students at NYPL branches in Staten Island and Manhattan to learn about the design aspect of the Park’s transformation. Students were asked to collaborate to address a design challenge, developing an idea and prototype using basic materials such as coffee filters, paper clips, cardboard, and tongue depressors.
Altogether, 3,500 students participated in youth environmental education programs in 2015, with 2,700 students learning about the park through in-class presentations and PPP workshops and 800 students visiting the park during walking tours.
Recreational Programs and Events
In 2015, free programs and events offered opportunities for the public to explore closed sections of the park, providing insights into ongoing development and chances to experience the hills and waterways before the park officially opens.
Public programs included kayaking, hikes, and bus tours. During kayaking trips, visitors paddled across creeks and waterways, seeing wildlife along the way. Hiking offered a chance to head for the hills on a 1–2 mile trek, and bus tours offered opportunities to learn about the past, present, and future of the park on a guided bus ride.
Freshkills Park held four public events in 2015. Two Discovery Days invited visitors to explore over 700 acres and 8 miles of trails with tours and recreation. Get into Gear celebrated the opening of the 3.2-mile New Springville Greenway, and Soaring Over Staten Island took visitors to the top of one of the Park’s hills where they could fly above the borough with kites, bird-watching, and panoramic views.
Freshkills Park also offered a volunteer cleanup program to keep open sections of the park beautiful. This program focused on Schmul Park in Travis and The New Springville Greenway along Richmond Avenue.
More than 6,550 people visited Freshkills Park during tours or public events in 2015. With the addition of off-site lectures and programs, over 9,400 people were reached in total. 224 unique volunteers participated in cleanups and event assistance, with several returning to the park after their first volunteer experience.
Established in 2010, the Freshkills Park Alliance is the not-for-profit partner with the City of New York in its work to develop Freshkills Park into an extraordinary 2,200 acre urban park that will be a model for sustainable waterfront land reclamation, a source of pride for Staten Island and New York City, and a gift of open space for generations to come. The Alliance helps ensure the Park’s evolution and continuing operation by raising necessary financial resources, promoting environmental research and restoration, engaging advocates and volunteers, and sponsoring a broad range of recreational, cultural, and educational programs for the public. Support the Freshkills Park Alliance.