How can I visit?
Freshkills Park is being built gradually in phases, and most of the site remains closed to the public. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance are providing early access for learning and exploration opportunities. Tours and events offer the unique chance to see parts of Freshkills Park that are currently closed to the public. Check the calendar to learn about upcoming opportunities to visit.
At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park is a huge project. In order to make it more manageable, NYC Parks plans to build the park in phases from the outside in. Projects that provide direct connection to the communities surrounding the park were given the highest priorities, and some have already opened!
- Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood was redesigned in 2012. (link)
- Owl Hollow Soccer Fields in Arden Heights opened in 2013. (link)
- The New Springville Greenway near the Staten Island Mall opened in 2015. (link)
Construction is currently underway for phase one of North Park, which is expected to open to the public in 2020. Future plans include publicly accessible road system that will provide access to the different areas of the park and create a connection between the West Shore Expressway (Route 440) and Richmond Avenue.
NYC Parks hopes to have the entire park fully opened in 2036. In the meantime, tours and events are providing early access as Freshkills Park remains closed to the public. Join us on an activity to see it for yourself.
Both the closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill and the construction of Freshkills Park are funded by the New York City Council allocating capital funds. The New York State Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability has also contributed funds for the park construction under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.
Freshkills Park is the biggest park to be constructed in New York City in 100 years. As a result, the park is opening in small increments over time. This approach makes it easier for planners to design, fund, construct, and open the park, rather than doing the same for all 2,200 acres of Freshkills Park at once.
As the not-for-profit partner of the park, the Freshkills Park Alliance raises funds to support programs that make the closed Freshkills Park site accessible to the public. You can donate to help the Alliance sponsor a broad range of recreational, cultural, and educational offerings.
What kind of animals can you find at Freshkills Park today?
You can find lots of wildlife at Freshkills Park! Here are some of the commonly found animals:
- Song birds: Red–Winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Northern Mocking Birds, Starlings, and American Goldfinches
- Water birds: Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Spotted Sandpipers, Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, Green Teals, Northern Pintails, and Buffleheads
- Raptors: American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, Red–Tailed Hawks, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, and Turkey Vultures
- Other birds: Killdeer, Common Terns, Gulls, and Ring-Necked Pheasants
- Mammals: Muskrats, White-Tailed Deer, Cotton-Tailed Rabbits, and muskrats
- Insects: Swallow-tail Butterflies, Dragonflies, Damselflies, and Praying Mantis
- Reptiles: Painted Turtles, Diamondback Terrapins, Snapping Turtles, and Garter Snakes
- Aquatic creatures: Blue Crabs, Ribbed Mussels, Mud Snails, and Mummichogs, and Striped bass
White-tailed deer are an important part of New York State’s rich ecosystem and are greatly valued by many New Yorkers. However, at high population levels deer can pose significant challenges to human health and safety. In September 2016, New York City launched a non-lethal deer impact management plan. To learn more, visit the Deer Impact Management Plan page.
Is the wildlife at Freshkills Park healthy?
Ongoing research indicates that the wildlife living at Freshkills Park is as healthy as other wildlife living in New York City. Urban parks do have more constraints on wildlife than animals in less urban spaces. These constraints are being studied at Freshkills Park by NYC Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, and the College of Staten Island, among others. More information can be found on the Scientific Research page.
Where does New York City’s trash go now?
Fresh Kills Landfill was the last landfill in New York City. Waste is now exported by private companies contracted by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY). The City’s 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan calls for compacting and containerizing waste for export from transfer stations by barge or rail.
Staten Island’s waste is sent to DSNY’s Staten Island Transfer Station, a 79,000 sq. ft. facility adjacent to the Freshkills Park site, where it is compacted, sealed into shipping containers and railed by a private contractor to a landfill in South Carolina. Waste from the Bronx and Brooklyn is railed to a landfill in Virginia, and a similar system will be established for western Queens. Much of Manhattan’s waste is trucked to a waste-to-energy plant in New Jersey.
Is it true that World Trade Center materials were brought to Fresh Kills?
After the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, the state consent order closing the landfill was amended by Governor George Pataki in order to allow for the transfer of materials from the World Trade Center site to Fresh Kills. During the 10–month recovery effort after September 11, rescue workers carefully screened and sifted the 1.2 million tons of material that came from the World Trade Center site to Fresh Kills. The search effort did not end until all discernible materials and effects were removed and taken to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office for identification and safekeeping.
After the FBI, NYPD, and Office of Emergency Management determined the process of retrieval had been exhaustive and complete, the screened and sifted WTC materials remaining at Fresh Kills were placed in a 48–acre area immediately adjacent to the recovery site on the West Mound at Fresh Kills. A layer of soil at least 1 foot deep was placed in this area prior to placement of the screened materials; afterward it was covered with additional soil to protect the site. The area is clearly marked to prevent disturbance. The City plans to incorporate commemorative design elements to the area to denote the role of responders in the event.
Where does the name “Fresh Kills” come from?
The name “Fresh Kills” comes from the Middle Dutch word kille, meaning “riverbed” or “water channel.” Before the landfill opened in 1948, the Fresh Kills site was primarily tidal creeks and coastal marsh. When Fresh Kills Landfill was established by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and the City of New York, the initial idea was to keep the landfill open for about three years and “fill” the wetlands at the 450-acre site to prepare it for development. Learn more about the history here.
How is it possible for a landfill to become a park?
The Freshkills Park landscape has many natural features, but it is highly engineered. The infrastructure installed at Freshkills Park covers the landfill and prevents it from posing a risk to public health.
- The landfill is sealed off with a “cap,” which is made of different layers of soil, geotextiles, and a plastic geomembrane. These layers cover and stabilize landfilled waste and prevent the waste and its byproducts from entering the surrounding environment.
- A collection of wells, trenches, and pipes collect the landfill byproducts – leachate and landfill gas – and send them to nearby treatment plants. Landfill gas is refined into pipeline-grade natural gas and distributed to Staten Island residents for cooking and heating fuel. Leachate undergoes a series of physical and chemical processes to separate harmful materials from clean water, then the water is discharged into the Arthur Kill.
- Air, surface water and groundwater monitoring are conducted on a regular basis to ensure that the landfill infrastructure functions properly.
The landfill is regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with a series of requirements, including management of landfill gas and leachate collection and treatment, and the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) maintains all these functions and meets all required regulations.
Interested in learning more? Visit the Landfill Engineering page.
Isn’t Fresh Kills radioactive? Is it a Superfund site?
Freshkills Park is not radioactive. Fresh Kills Landfill accepted residential and commercial waste. That includes food scraps, plastic, clothes, wood and other items.
Aerial surveys have not found any radiation at Freshkills Park. Those same surveys did find radioactive hot spots at Great Kills Park and the Brookfield Landfill. The Brookfield Landfill has been remediated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the National Park Service is currently working to address Great Kills Park. More information can be found at the Great Kills Park Environmental Cleanup Project website.
Fresh Kills Landfill is not a Superfund site. A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located. When Fresh Kills Landfill was active, it did not receive hazardous waste. The site is regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Department of Sanitation has invested a lot in establishing the best available environmental controls on the site, making it a state of the art facility and a model for cities around the country.
Are Freshkills Park’s waterways safe?
Freshkills Park’s waterways are rated appropriate for secondary contact, which means that they can be used for boating, kayaking and catch-and-release fishing. Like many other industrial waterways, the water is not appropriate for drinking, swimming, cooking, or bathing. New York City residents actually get their drinking water from upstate New York, so groundwater and water bodies near Freshkills Park are not used for drinking water.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation annually tests for pollution levels in the surface water and sediment at 14 sites in and around Freshkills Park to ensure that it meets US Environmental Protection Agency water safety standards, as required by the Clean Water Act. Groundwater is sampled four times each year at 238 monitoring wells. Learn more about monitoring here.