At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park will be almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in over 100 years. The transformation of what was formerly the world’s largest landfill into a productive and beautiful cultural destination will make the park a symbol of renewal and an expression of how our society can restore balance to its landscape. In addition to providing a wide range of recreational opportunities, including many uncommon in the city, the park’s design, ecological restoration and cultural and educational programming will emphasize environmental sustainability and a renewed public concern for our human impact on the earth.
While the full build–out will continue in phases for the next 30 years, development over the next several years will focus on providing public access to the interior of the site and showcasing its unusual combination of natural and engineered beauty, including creeks, wetlands, expansive meadows and spectacular vistas of the New York City region.
In 2001, the City of New York, led by the Department of City Planning and supported by the New York Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources, conducted a master planning process for Freshkills Park that resulted in an illustrative park plan, also known as the Draft Master Plan. In 2006, the Department of Parks & Recreation assumed responsibility for implementing the project using the Draft Master Plan as a conceptual guide. The basic framework of the plan integrates three separate systems — programming, wildlife, and circulation — into one cohesive and dynamic unit.
Freshkills Park will host an incredible variety of public spaces and facilities for social, cultural and physical activity, for learning and play. The site is large enough to support many sports and programs that are unusual in the city, possibilities of which include horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trails, kayaking, and large–scale public art.
Freshkills Park will also support richly diverse habitats for wildlife, birds and plant communities, as well as provide extraordinary natural settings for recreation. Through ecological innovation and creative design, new native plant communities will inhabit the site and connect the park to adjacent park sites on Staten Island.
An expansive network of paths, recreational waterways, and enhanced access to and from the West Shore Expressway through a system of park drives will help to create an animated, inter–connected park. People will be able to experience the site by canoe, on horseback, on mountain bike, on foot, or by car.
Five Parks in One
Freshkills Park will have five main areas: the Confluence (made up of Creek Landing and The Point), North Park, South Park, East Park and West Park. Each area will have a distinct character and programming approach.
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The Confluence is the cultural and waterfront recreation core of the park, sited at the confluence of Richmond Creek and Main Creek and encircled by the park road. Two developed areas along this loop are the main activity sites in the park:
Creek Landing (20 acres) will be designed for waterfront activities, including an esplanade, canoe and boat launch, restaurants, a visitor center and a large event lawn for gatherings, picnics and sunbathing. The area will also allow for ample car parking and will be a central point of arrival and departure of park users.
The Point (50 acres) is designed to accommodate sports fields, event spaces, lawns, artwork and educational programming. A long promenade along the water’s edge will support restaurants, a banquet facility and an open–air market roof. Old machinery and artifacts from Fresh Kills Landfill operations will act as outdoor sculptural pieces, and the old barges will be re–imagined as floating gardens. The promenade will be a vibrant social place with seating, fishing piers, a boat launch and great views across the water toward the natural beauty of the nearby Isle of Meadows.
North Park (233 acres, max. elev. 150 ft.) will be characterized by simple, vast natural settings—meadows, wetlands and creeks. Adjacent to the Travis neighborhood and overlooking the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, the area will feature paths and trails for walking, running, bicycling and skating encircling the northern mound. Scenic overlooks and spaces for picnicking, catch–and–release fishing and bird–watching will be provided.
South Park (425 acres, max. elev. 140 ft.) will provide large natural settings and active recreational spaces, including soccer fields, an equestrian facility and mountain biking pathways. Adjacent to the Arden Heights neighborhood, South Park will also host picnic areas, fields and trails. The area is also large enough to house a major sports and recreation center for track and field and/or swimming. The hilltops lend spectacular views across the site and into the distance.
East Park (482 acres, max. elev. 135 ft.) will be defined by the park road that extends from Richmond Avenue into the heart of the site and connects to the West Shore Expressway. The park drive will be sensitively designed as a scenic route integrated into the landscape. The Richmond Avenue side of East Park has been conceptualized as a nature education area with specially designed wetlands, boardwalks and exhibits and public art installations. The large mound in this area lends itself to a variety of recreational uses, from golf and field sports to archery, informal pickup games, frisbee and picnicking.
West Park (545 acres, max. elev. 200 ft.) hosts the site’s largest mound, with the West Shore Expressway to the east and the Arthur Kill to the west. An enormous earthwork monument is envisioned atop the mound in remembrance of the September 11 recovery effort that occurred in this location. Set on a vast hilltop wildflower meadow, the earthwork would be open to the sky and offer spectacular 360–degree views of the region, including a direct line of sight to lower Manhattan.
With the help of advanced landfill gas collection infrastructure throughout the landfill, the Department of Sanitation is already actively harvesting methane from the decomposing waste buried at Fresh Kills. This methane, enough to heat approximately 22,000 homes, is sold to National Grid and the city generates approximately $12 million in annual revenue from the sale of that gas. Gas recovery and sale will continue until the amount of gas produced by the landfill is small enough as to no longer be economically viable, at which point it will be burned off at flare stations onsite.
While maintaining the objective of minimizing energy consumption within new buildings and infrastructure systems onsite, DPR is also committed to building upon Sanitation's precedent in using emerging energy technologies to supply as much of the park's energy as possible. This commitment could include photovoltaic cells and wind turbines, using solar thermal cells in water heating systems, geothermal heating and cooling, and abiding green building principles. The City is also exploring opportunities to complement park development with demonstration space for newer renewable energy technologies.
The City is interested in using Freshkills Park as a platform for generating knowledge applicable to a broad range of urban environmental issues, at this site and others: reforestation, habitat restoration, soil production, water quality, alternative energy generation, even attitudes toward park usage. The physical size and 30-year timescale of the park project ensure that much of its acreage will be undeveloped for the next ten to fifteen years. The City hopes to capitalize on this available land by collaborating on research plots and permitting access that is restricted to scientists, technicians and students. Initial projects are already underway with the United States Forest Service and CUNY Hunter. The Department of Parks & Recreation continues to seek partners in academia, museums, government and the private sector in the interest of refining and targeting research questions toward the advancement of study and the pursuit of funding opportunities.