FAQs

Park Development

When will Freshkills Park open to the public?
How large will the new park be?
How is Freshkills Park funded?
Can roads be built at Freshkills Park?
Can I contribute an idea for what I’d like to see in the park?
Are there some things that cannot be built at Freshkills Park?

Nature

What kind of animals can you find at Freshkills Park today?
Are there a lot of deer at Freshkills Park?
Is the wildlife at Freshkills Park healthy?

Landfill Infrastructure

Where does New York City’s trash go now?
Are there gases being released by the Fresh Kills Landfill?
Is liquid escaping from the site?
Is there a barrier between people and the garbage at the park?

Public Health

Why don’t I smell the landfill anymore?
I thought Fresh Kills is radioactive, why build a park there?
Is the Fresh Kills Landfill a Superfund site?
Are Freshkills Park’s waterways safe?
I was walking by Freshkills Park and I smelled gas (sulfur), and I usually don’t–is this normal?

Park Development

When will Freshkills Park open to the public?

Freshkills Park remains closed to the public during this exciting transformation. Join us on one of our activities to see it for yourself.

Freshkills Park is a HUGE project. In order to make it more manageable, NYC Parks has broken the park down into specific projects. Those projects that provided direct connection to the communities surrounding the park were given the highest priorities, and some have already opened! Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood and the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields in Arden opened in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The New Springville Greenway near the Staten Island Mall was completed in 2015. NYC Parks is continuing to strive towards the completion of our 25-year plan, and have the site fully opened in 2036. In the meantime, the Freshkills Park Alliance continues to make the site open to the public for community events, recreation, education and research.

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How large will the new park be?

Freshkills Park is 2,200 acres on Staten Island’s west shore, directly across from the New Jersey town of Carteret. The park is actually 6% of the landmass of the entire island. Freshkills Park is also the largest park to be built in NYC in the last 100 years! To put the size of Freshkills Park in perspective, we can compare it to other famous parks:

  • Central Park – 840 Acres
  • Prospect Park – 526 Acres
  • Van Cortlandt Park – 1,146 Acres
  • Flushing Meadows Corona Park – 898 Acres
  • Coney Island – 399 Acres
  • Bryant Park – 9.6 Acres
  • Union Square Park – 6.51 Acres

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How is Freshkills Park funded?

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. Additionally, the New York State Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability has contributed funds for the park construction under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.

As the not-for-profit partner of the park, the Freshkills Park Alliance raises funds to support park development. You can contribute to building the new Freshkills Park, as well as keeping the site open for community events and education until the park construction is completed! Public support is vital for the continuing build out of this park. Add your voice!

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Can roads be built at Freshkills Park?

Absolutely! The Freshkills Park Alliance and NYC Parks support the construction of roads to allow greater access to our surrounding community. NYC Sanitation has prepared a section of the landfill to support a road going over it, and NYC Parks, Sanitation, City Planning, and Department of Design & Construction are working together to bring what we refer to as the “Yukon Ave” connection to life. This will connect a road from the expressway to the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Yukon Avenue. Find out more about the routing of the future road.

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Can I contribute an idea for what I’d like to see in the park?

Please do! The Freshkills Park Alliance consistently advocates for the development of the park and we love to hear your ideas. Every idea from a water fountain or bench to a large concert lawn is valuable to us because we need your support to make the park a reality–we can show your ideas to the planners and landscape architects currently working on the project. Please leave us a comment, and consider volunteering or showing support with a donation as we strive to make your ideas a reality.

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Are there some things that cannot be built at Freshkills Park?

It’s true that not everything is right for Freshkills Park. We’re proud that our site is unique, and there are many different regulations governing it to make sure the site is consistently in good order. Keeping in line with regulations, structural requirements, and landfill engineering the following are some of the ideas we won’t be able to implement according to NYC Parks:

  • Mountain Biking: Pursuant to state laws governing landfills, mountain biking will not be permitted at Freshkills Park to prevent erosion and damage to the landfill.
  • ATVs/Dirt Bikes: Pursuant to state laws governing landfills, ATVs and dirt bikes will not be permitted at Freshkills Park to prevent erosion and damage to the landfill.
  • Structures on landfill mounds: Restaurants, stadiums, and other facilities cannot be built on our hills throughout the site due to structural requirements. We’ve identified alternate areas inside the park where we can place the facilities, so don’t worry!
  • Waterslides/Pools: These are cool ideas! We can’t locate these on the hills of Freshkills Park because of weight-bearing issues, and the lack of water pipes to supply them.
  • Fire pits and Barbeques: The hills of Freshkills Park are covered in beautiful native grass species (and a lot of invasive ones). Picnics will be welcomed, but the risk of a brush fire is much greater here than it is in the parks that don’t have great expanses of meadowland.

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Nature

What kind of animals can you find at Freshkills Park today?

Wildlife is surely returning to our site! Commonly found at the Park are:

  • 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, Osprey, Northern Harriers, and Turkey Vultures
  • Other birds: Killdeer, Common Terns, Gulls, and Ring–Necked Pheasants
  • Mammals: Muskrats, White–Tailed Deer, Cotton–Tailed Rabbits, and the occasional Coyote
  • Insects: Swallow-tail Butterflies, Dragonflies, Damselflies, and Praying Mantis
  • Reptiles: Painted Turtles, Diamondback Terrapins, Snapping Turtles, and Garter Snakes
  • Aquatic creatures: Blue Crabs, Ribbed Muscles, Snails, and Fish

If you look for bugs, you could spot Swallow-tail Butterflies, Dragonflies & Damselflies, and Praying Mantis. Rarely seen up close, we’ve occasionally spotted a coyote on site!

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Are there a lot of deer at Freshkills Park?

Deer populations on Staten Island have been rebounding due to the closing of the landfill, and the appearance of Freshkills Park. New park additions, less pollution and continued sustainable practices have encouraged nature to flourish on Staten Island and more nature is a good thing. NYC Parks and Freshkills Park are beginning to survey our deer populations, so we can keep track and properly manage their growth. Hunting is NOT permitted within New York City limits.

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Is the wildlife at Freshkills Park healthy?

We believe the wildlife living at Freshkills Park is as healthy as other wildlife living in NYC. Our nature as an urban park does lead to constraints that the wildlife do not face in the protected forests and national parks across the country. To explore this concept and study how wildlife populations are bouncing back, the Freshkills Park Alliance partners with research institutions such as the College of Staten Island and the U.S. Forest Service to conduct independent research on our site.

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Landfill Infrastructure

Where does New York City’s trash go now?

New York City’s waste is now exported by private companies contracted by the Department of Sanitation. 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; 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.

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Are there gases being released by the Fresh Kills Landfill?

Landfill odors are caused by decaying garbage that is handled and buried at the site. As no new garbage is being deposited at Fresh Kills, odors from landfill operations have diminished. The buried waste does produce an odorous landfill gas (LFG), but since 1999, most of these gases have been collected and controlled by a gas collection system that either burns or purifies that gas to harvest natural gas for use on Staten Island.

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Is liquid escaping from the site?

When water or other liquids come in contact with decomposing waste, it produces a substance called ‘leachate’. The leachate treatment plant at Fresh Kills has the ability to process up to 600,000 gallons of leachate daily, but most of that capacity is unused. The production of leachate will diminish exponentially every year, until all the water has drained out of the landfill. Leachate containment is in part accomplished by a subsurface cut-off wall that serves as a barrier to restrict the exchange of water between the landfill and the surrounding area. The cut-off wall, constructed of a clay material and soil or cement bentonite, is connected to low-permeability soils that underlie the site and that already serve as a natural liner.

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Is there a barrier between people and the garbage at the park?

There is! We call it a landfill cap. It is a solid plastic geomembrane that was welded together to make a permanent physical barrier. Covering the waste below the geomembrane is a minimum of one foot of compacted soil or other suitable material, approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This is called the intermediate cover. In most places, it goes deeper—in some areas it is deeper than 18 feet. The amount is dependent on the final grades (slopes) that need to be established. The minimum grade is 4%, and the maximum is 33%. These grades are specified to help ensure the stability of the mound, promote positive drainage, and minimize erosion of the final cover. In addition to the intermediate cover below the geomembrane, more intermediate cover was placed while landfilling; the refuse was continually covered with a foot of intermediate cover material, so as to control odor, litter, vectors, and leachate generation.

Above the geomembrane, there is a minimum of 24 inches of barrier protection layer made up of dirt, and then a minimum of 6 inches of planting soil on top of that. Diagrams, photographs, and more information is available on the Landfill Engineering page.

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Public Health

Why don’t I smell the landfill anymore?

The garbage decomposing at the landfill is a smell all of us will remember for quite some time. Since the landfill stopped accepting new garbage in 2001, the Department of Sanitation began the process of ‘capping’ the landfill. Each of the four mounds has been completely covered; north and south mound are covered with clay caps; east mound is covered with a thick plastic cap; west mound is in the final process of being capped with the same plastic liner. These covers prevent the garbage from being exposed to the air, and so odors of decomposition are now contained within the hills.

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I thought Fresh Kills is radioactive, why build a park there?

Sometimes Freshkills Park is confused with Great Kills Park, a federal park on Staten Island with a strikingly similar name. Great Kills Park identified hotspots where radiation is present in their park and federal officials are addressing that. Read more coverage on this issue by the Staten Island Advance.

Another park that had previous issues with some toxic materials was the old Brookfield Landfill across from the Atrium movie theater on Staten Island. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has since stepped in and has remediated the toxicity.

Some other people are under the impression that our garbage is radioactive. The Fresh Kills Landfill accepted residential and commercial waste, which includes your food scraps, plastic, clothes, wood and other items. We never accepted radioactive or medical waste; New York State law specifically designates what type of material each landfill is able to receive. Fresh Kills was only designed to receive municipal solid waste (MSW). The same surveys that picked up the radiation found in the Brookfield site and at Great Kills did not identify any radioactivity at Fresh Kills.

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Is the Fresh Kills Landfill a Superfund site?

No; a Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located. Fresh Kills was a landfill, never an industrial site for dumping hazardous waste. We are regulated by the state for environmental controls and the Department of Sanitation has spent a lot of money on establishing the best available environmental controls on the site, making us a state of the art facility and a model for cities around the country.

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Are Freshkills Park’s waterways safe?

Freshkills Park’s waterways are rated appropriate for secondary contact. This means that activities such as boating, kayaking, and fishing are permitted. Just like the East River, Hudson River, and New York Bay; it is not recommended to swim or bathe in the water, or eat fish you find there. New York City continues to be an industrial port, and that means jobs for our economy. It also does mean that our water could be cleaner, as the port activities and waterfront industry on the shores of New Jersey and New York are not the most environmentally friendly neighbors. The Freshkills Park Alliance is exploring using shellfish to start trying to clean our waterways and reach a threshold where we can start to clean the harbor too!

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I was walking by Freshkills Park and I smelled gas (sulfur), and I usually don’t–is this normal?

If you are near any buildings in your neighborhood, check to see if the gas smell is coming from the building first. If it is, report it immediately to 911 and the Fire Department and notify the building owner.

If you are not near any buildings, and you believe the gas ‘sulfur’ smell is coming directly from Freshkills Park, send us an email at freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov with the location (please provide a cross street) and we can check up on the area. Freshkills Park has a composting facility at the Department of Sanitation facility next door. During the summer before the compost is turned over, it sometimes gets a bit smelly. However this might not always be the case and we would let the right people know to check up on our systems if you notice anything unusual.

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