Who would have thought that one of the city's largest garbage dumps could be the next Central Park?
After 54 years of being the city's refuse site, the sanitation department closed the 2,200-acre facility in Staten Island but started a design competition to seek ways to transform the landfill into a habitable green space. The response was huge and in 2007, work began on the 30-year restoration project.
"Staten Island has hated this place for the last 50 years. It means that the city is making good on its commitment to give this land back," said Eloise Hirsh, Freshkills Park's administrator.
The park will have plenty of amenities, including a 223-acre section with trails for hiking and biking, picnic areas and bird watching. There will also be facilities for events, horseback riding, and maybe even a golf course. The sanitation and parks departments have worked to ensure the site is safe and are using the latest environmental technology to create the cleanest atmosphere.
"It's the engineering that makes [the park] possible," Hirsh said. "The regulations are clear for what it takes to make sure all of the methane gas is harvested."
Although Hirsh said the project is still 25 years away from completion, it has already made huge progress and opened some sections to the public as a way to generate interest from the community.
"We have a whole bunch of programs that we're doing while we go through it," she said.
The soccer fields at the Owl Hollow section at the southern end of the park are open for organized play and kayakers have been allowed to explore the water near the West Shore Expressway for special events.
Hirsh added that the park does have regularly scheduled tours in which parts of the park are open to the public. One tour is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Hirsh said those visits have been essential in the planning for the green space, which already has seen $600 million in funding from the city, because they give engineers feedback on their work and also allows them to adapt for any ideas the public thinks up.
"Come to the experience when we have this open," Hirsh said. "There are a lot of fun events that we do that not too many people know about, but they'd love it." (Credit: Alex Maclean, courtesy of the City of New York)