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.
Design & Construction Updates
The first projects to be built are neighborhood-focused amenities at the perimeter of Freshkills Park. Schmul Park, an existing blacktop playground, will be renovated, replacing asphalt with colorful rubber–clad play mounds, plantings and other porous surfacing. The park will feature handball and basketball courts, as well as an ecologically sensitive comfort station designed by architecture firm BKSK. Schmul Park will also serve as a pedestrian entryway to North Park. The comfort station and playground projects are in construction, and will open in 2012.
Owl Hollow Fields
The Owl Hollow Fields will provide four synthetic turf soccer fields, a loop pedestrian path, parking and landscaped lawn areas. A comfort station designed by Sage + Coombe Architects will be a LEED certified building with a green roof, geothermal heating and cooling, and a wind turbine to generate electricity. The fields are presently under construction in anticipation of a 2012 completion.
North Park Phase 1
The first phase of North Park development will be a 21–acre swath of land conveying visitors to spectacular views of Main Creek and the adjacent William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. Features include divided walking and high–speed paths; a photovoltaic shade structure powering the parking lot’s lights; a scenic forested plateau; a comfort station with composting toilets; an expansive picnic lawn; and an overlook deck and contemporary bird observation tower at water’s edge.
The public will be able to track the progress of tree growth in an innovative pot–in–pot tree nursery and to stroll past seven acres of native seed plots operated by the Department of Parks & Recreation’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center. The harvest from both projects will be used in replanting Freshkills Park.
South Park Phase 1
The initial phase of South Park’s 425–acre build–out will lead visitors to the first publicly accessible part of what was actually former landfill: the smaller of two mounds that make up South Park. A network of walking and biking trails will circle the mound and connect recreational fields, public art installations and scenic overlooks of the surrounding creeks and habitats. Design is complete on this first phase of South Park, and the project has begun the permitting process.
New Springville Greenway
With the support of a Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Parks & Recreation will construct a 3.3-mile greenway along the eastern edge of Freshkills Park, creating north/south bike access parallel with Richmond Avenue and connecting to existing sidewalks and paths. Construction work will consist of new asphalt pavement, concrete sidewalk reconstruction and improvements, and associated drainage systems. Drainage structures will incorporate the most sustainable techniques in bio-swale design and construction. Additional amenities will include ADA access ramps at sidewalk connections to street crossings, benches and bus stop connections, pavement markings, signage, fencing and vehicle protection barriers. The project is currently in design, with construction projected to begin in 2013.
Main Creek Wetland Restoration
With the support of a grant from the New York Department of State’s Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability, the Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking restoration of two acres of wetland habitat within the Freshkills Park site. This small project will provide guidance for further wetland restoration projects within the park. It will create new salt marsh and coastal habitat; stabilize the shoreline to provide additional protection for habitat under potential threat by climate change and sea level rise and improve water quality through greater interface between coastal plants and tidal waters. Construction is anticipated in 2012.
A publicly accessible road system will be a major feature of Freshkills Park. Roads will provide access to the different areas of the park and create a connection between the West Shore Expressway (Route 440) and Richmond Avenue. Transportation consultants will examine technical feasibility of routing options through the site, with design variables that include differential settlement of the landfill mounds, weight constraints on sensitive infrastructure and the viability of flexible pavement. Regardless of the final alignment and design of the roads, the Parks Department is committed to building roads that meet Federal AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) safety standards, accommodate present and future traffic needs, and complement the park landscape.
The Draft Master Plan offers a framework for development to guide the site’s evolution over the next 30 years. This timeline is broken down into three ten–year phases:
To assure that the park’s long–range construction does not become a waiting period, but is a time of dynamic change with access to the extraordinary “public space in–process,” phasing is choreographed in project sets. Each project set is independent of the others and is capable of being developed concurrently or in sequence. The Draft Master Plan focuses on executing a carefully–planned first phase of development that will initiate active use of the park, generate enthusiasm and commitment on the part of stakeholders, and propel later phases of development. Phase I will occur over the first ten years of the park’s development, with projects and facilities opening throughout this period.
Major outcomes of Phase 1 include:
- Portions of South Park and North Park and the Confluence open to the public
- Completion of the Loop drive and links to the West Shore Expressway
- First recreational facilities complete and in operation
- Early programs and settings for non–profit and commercial initiative
- Visible progress of ecological transformation underway
- Establishment of new parkland identity
- East and West Mounds closed and capped
With much of the park infrastructure in place, Phase 2 concentrates on enhancing program settings and ecology. Major outcomes of Phase 2 include:
- East Park opens
- Additional recreational facilities, public space and ecology improvements in North Park, South Park and the Confluence
- Paths and trail network extended
- Range of non–profit and commercial ventures built and animating the park’s public spaces.
Phase 3 expands the acreage open to the public and converts landfill infrastructure to support new uses. Major outcomes of Phase 3 include:
- West park natural areas and public landscapes significantly expanded; development of the Arthur Kill Road edge of the park
- The Point program areas built out and highly active
- Continued emergence of new habitats