Revealing the Future: A Story of Gratitude and Giving Back


Written by Susannah Aziz.

Many New Yorkers benefit from the great parks and preserved nature settings throughout NYC for recreation. After spending several years at home raising my young children and relying heavily on so many of the beautiful parks to entertain them, I realized how truly valuable they are. To express my appreciation, I decided it was time for me to give back.

While researching the many parks, museums and entertainment outlets that Staten Island has to offer… I happened to find a website for the Freshkills Park Alliance. The more I read about the project, the more I was intrigued by the concept of reusing a former landfill to create something beautiful. I felt it my responsibility to help bring this project to life and couldn’t wait to be a part of this transformation.  As New York residents, we all contributed to the garbage that made up this landfill for decades, how can we ignore it?  I registered as a volunteer.

I was excited to begin, to get out into the outdoors, and to finally meet these inspiring individuals dedicating their time, and careers to the project, especially those passionate about this project. At the crack of dawn, I met the Freshkills Park team to volunteer for an event called Bioblitz, a 24-hour biological survey with researchers and college students at the park. They gave me volunteer information and a uniform, consisting of a Freshkills Park hat and a bright green t-shirt. It reminded me of the color of early tree leaves in the spring. The day was sunny, and quite warm, as we were provided with plenty of water. Duties were designated to all of the volunteers, an eclectic group comprised of a mix of various professionals, retirees, and students. It was such a delight meeting these individuals as we all set out to take on our jobs for the day.

As volunteers, we took on all sorts of tasks.  I not only learned about the exact details of the project from leaders and experts of the project, but I was able to take a private tour of the many acres of land, and marveled at the transformation into a wildlife oasis. I was especially amazed at the park’s progress in only a short time span.

I had always cared enough about the environment to be proactive in recycling and re-using like any other New York resident, but I never would have labeled myself as a “tree- hugger” or “eco-crazy,” but this had done it for me, I was officially eco-crazy and see absolutely nothing wrong with a little tree hug now and then.

I encourage all New Yorkers to get involved with this project. It will not only change you as a person, but it will open your eyes to the fact that anything is possible, even a garbage dump becoming an oasis. There is still a whole lot of good in this world, and good people that are eager to create beauty. This world is a beautiful place, and I for one intend to help keep it that way for future generations to enjoy with their own children. This project will truly open your heart and mind to the endless possibilities of recycling wasted land for the betterment of future generations.

Thank you to the entire Freshkills team for allowing me to be a part of the experience this summer.  I also hope to get my children involved in the future, and encourage everyone to do the same. They have already had such a wonderful time making fun and new memories at the various Freshkills Park visits, and I hope to run into the same eco-loving friends that I had the pleasure of meeting and working with last year.

For more information about volunteering, visit

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