Beyond the High Line: A Sneak Peek of Freshkills Park

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Author: 
Amelia Krales
Photo by Friends of the High Line A group of High Line staff members enjoy the breeze and panoramic view from the top of a hill in Freshkills Park on Staten Island. Come learn more about the park at our free talk on September 23, Beyond the High Line: Transforming Fresh Kills, Staten Island . And visit Freshkills itself on September 29 for Sneak Peak! Photo by Friends of the High Line

On Tuesday, September 10, twelve members of the High Line staff took a trip to tour Freshkills Park in Staten Island, built on the former site of the world’s largest landfill. With 2,200 acres, the park is almost three times larger than Central Park.

Freshkills is divided into five sections, most of which are not yet open to the public. However, we were given the opportunity to look behind the scenes (and up the hills and in the meadows) with Michael Callery, one of the stewards of this amazing reclaimed site.

Photo by Friends of the High LineWe spy the wetlands from the top of a hill in a swath of Freshkills that is currently closed to the public. This expanse of land will eventually provide open access for activities of all kinds. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 
Photo by Friends of the High LineAt the Freshkills Visitor’s Center, High Line gardener John Gunderson stands in front of aerial images paired with design plans for the park. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 

We learned that because of the large size of the park, it is expected to be 30 years until Freshkills will be entirely open to the public. Until then, visitors will be welcomed to the park section by section. The first areas open to the public are child-focused spaces easily accessible to adjacent communities. One of the sections – Schmul Park – was designed by James Corner Field Operations, which you may know from the High Line design team.

Photo by Friends of the High Line In the visitor center at Freshkills, there are cross-section models explaining how the former landfill was "capped" and the land made safe for use while allowing decomposition to continue. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 

Enormous amounts of trash were brought to Fresh Kills for fifty years, peaking at almost 29,000 tons per day in the late 1980s. Once the site was closed , a layered "cap" was put over the sections. On top of the waste is a soil barrier, a gas-vent layer, a plastic lining, a drainage layer, a two-foot protective layer, and planting soil at the top. The gas-vent layer houses a grid of pipes which carry the methane gas produced by the garbage through filtration systems. After filtration, the gas is used to heat more than 20,000 Staten Island homes! Learn more about the landfill capping process here. Being in this beautiful park, it's difficult to imagine its history.

Photo by Friends of the High Line The history of the park is fascinating as are the plans to reclaim and re-use the space as a public park. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 

At 6:30 PM on September 23, come to the free talk Beyond the High Line: Transforming Fresh Kills Staten Island. James Corner, of James Corner Field Operations (a designer for both the High Line and Freshkills projects), and Eloise Hirsh, of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, will explain the plans for the 2,200 acres of varying landscape.

Photo by Friends of the High Line(left) The above-ground portion of a web of pipes that carries the garbage's methane gas through filtration systems, allowing it to be used as green energy. (right) Grasses grow in the fields at Freshkills. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 
Photo by Friends of the High LineWe take in the amazing vistas from the high points of the park. Photo by Friends of the High Line
 
EnlargePhoto of Friends of the High Line

The possibilities for activities, events, art, exploration, and learning are endless. The park has plans for many sports fields, bird-watching towers, hiking and biking paths, and kayaking opportunities for visitors. It is exciting that a huge open area is right here in our city waiting for us to enjoy it.

Plan your trip to Freshkills now! Bring the whole family for a day of fun activities at Sneak Peak , Freshkills’ big event on September 29. Free shuttle buses will be provided from the Staten Island Ferry.