From the archives: restoration ecology at Fresh Kills
We just dug up this great story from the New York Times in 2000 that features the work of Rutgers restoration ecologist Steven Handel at the Freshkills Park site. Dr. Handel and his students had completed a 16-acre study at the old landfill in the New Jersey Meadowlands when they entered into agreement with the NYC Department of Sanitation to study the rehabilitation of native ecology at the not-yet-closed Fresh Kills Landfill. The group performed two primary studies, one of tree growth on the capped landfill mounds, and one of seed dispersal of native plantings by pollinators like birds and bees. Both studies have been valuable in the continued planning and design of Freshkills Park.
Dr. Handel gave a lecture in our Freshkills Park Talks lecture series last year and touched on some of these topics; you can hear clips of the audio from that talk here. He speaks very eloquently about urban sites and their ecological potential, both in person and in the story. And it’s especially satisfying to read the reporter’s impressions of Fresh Kills, even then:
There’s a powerful beauty to this wasteland. Hydraulic cranes with huge toothed buckets chomp waste from barges docked on the edge of the creeks and drop it onto loading stations, where front-end loaders lift it onto monstrous trucks. From our vantage point, atop an old mound capped years ago, the scene was incongrously peaceful. Seagulls fluttered over the garbage barges. It didn’t even smell.
As spectacular and serene an experience as it was then, it’s much more so today.