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.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Site and Context
- Project Details
- Waste Disposal
- Natural Systems
- Landfill Byproducts and infrastructure
- Local Concerns
Site and Context
Where does the name ‘Fresh Kills’ come from?
‘Kill’ is derived from Old Dutch and means stream, brook, or channel. The usage of the word ‘kill’ is seen frequently in place names throughout New York City and State where early Dutch settlement occurred. It is thought that the name Fresh Kills is derived from the historical natural features of the site which, prior to landfilling, was dominated by a vast tidal wetland fed by fresh water springs and streams. It was not uncommon to use ‘fresh’ when naming places with such springs. Fresh Kills, specifically, appeared as a place name by 1750.
Where is Fresh Kills?
Fresh Kills is located along the Arthur Kill on Staten Island’s western shore. It encompasses the Fresh Kills Estuary and the Isle of Meadows. It is bounded on the north by Victory Boulevard and Travis Avenue, to the east by Richmond Avenue, and in the south by Arthur Kill Road. The West Shore Expressway (Rte. 440) bisects the entire site in a north/south direction.
How big is Fresh Kills, and how old is it?
The Fresh Kills Landfill began receiving waste in 1948. The original site encompassed almost 3,000 acres. Over the years, many of these properties have been relinquished for parks and other public uses. Since 1980, the site boundaries have constricted to encompass about 2,200 acres, with only 990 acres, or 45% of the site, used to bury and mound garbage. At 2,200 acres, the Fresh Kills site is roughly 2.5 times the size of Central Park and takes up approximately 6% of Staten Island’s land area.
I've heard that one of the mounds at Fresh Kills is the highest point of elevation in New York City. Is this true?
No. Two common myths about the height of West Mound, the tallest mound at Fresh kills at 200 feet, are that it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and that it is the highest point in the city. Both statements are false. At 305 feet, the Statue of Liberty easily surpasses the highest point at Fresh Kills, and at 410 Todt Hill, in Staten Island, is the City's highest point. Todt Hill is also considered to be the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine.
How many people are working on the site today?
Including Department of Sanitation workers, construction workers, and contractors, the number is around 200.
What is the timeline of the project?
Construction of the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields began in late 2008 and is expected to be complete by 2012.
Renovation of Schmul Park began in mid-2010 and is expected to be complete by late 2011.
Segments of the roadway connecting the West Shore Expressway to Richmond Avenue and providing access to various park amenities will begin construction in 2011, to be complete by 2013.
Construction of North Park and South Park is expected to be complete by 2016, but access to those parts of the site will happen in phases: construction on North Park, Phase One will start late 2009, with completion by early 2011, and South Park, Phase One will begin construction in 2012, with completion by 2014.
The full park build-out, including the Confluence, East and West Park, will continue to phase in through 2036.
Where is the funding from the project coming from?
The majority of capital funding for the project comes from City funds allocated by Mayor Bloomberg.The project has also been generously supported by over $12 million in grants from the New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and the Federal Highway Administration.
How does this project benefit the area culturally? Environmentally?
The project will provide a tremendous recreational resource for the community, opening 2,200 acres of previously inaccessible land for public recreation. Additionally, the project will permanently protect thousands of acres of natural resources.
The Draft Master Plan was written broadly enough to be provide an overall vision for the Fresh Kills site but allows for the flexibility to accommodate changing needs and desires of the Staten Island community and the City as a while. It should be noted that the planning process included significant public outreach; the plan reflects the feedback we received from the community.
What have people suggested for the future of Fresh Kills, and how will their suggestions be used?
Through phone calls and e–mails and at a series of public outreach meetings and workshops hosted by the Department of City Planning, citizens have proposed a wide variety of ideas for Fresh Kills. These include: development of new roads connecting the West Shore Expressway (Rt. 440) and Richmond Avenue to improve local circulation and provide public access to the site; active and passive recreational uses such as mountain biking, golf, ballfields, tennis courts, hiking trails and bridle paths; non–motorized, waterborne recreation such as kayaking and canoeing; and environmental programs and a wildlife refuge. Other suggestions have included an observatory, a dude ranch, a model airplane field and camping facilities. As part of the planning process the Department of City Planning and its consultants used this information and other suggestions to inform the Draft Master Plan.
The transformation of Fresh Kills will be a model of continued public engagement. The Freshkills Park Draft Master Plan (DMP) is the result of extensive site analysis, community needs, assessment and outreach, landfill operations consideration, and studies and reviews of other landfill models. For a project as big and complicated as Fresh Kills, decision–making based upon informed consensus among the primary representatives is critical. The DMP serves as the basis for further review, discussion, and decision–making.
Since the release of the DMP, there has been a series of public meetings and hearings to inform the public on the progress of the park. The Staten Island Community Boards have also been kept up to date with repeated presentations. As the project moves from conceptual to schematic design in specific areas of the park, we have held and will continue to hold public meetings with residents to shape the park amenities to respond to community needs. One future example is that as we start designing the bike path system, we will be meeting with local bike groups to make sure their expertise and input is incorporated into the designs.
How does the Parks Department feel about having roads developed through the newly acquired land to alleviate congestion on the island?
One of the goals of the park project is to address traffic issues on the Island. As such, since the beginning of the master planning work on the project, the City, including the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, and City Planning, has embraced the goal of providing a critical east–west connection between the West Shore Expressway and Richmond Avenue through the Fresh Kills site.
In addition to providing the important east–west connection, the roads will provide access to the park itself and its various areas of recreational programming.
Is it possible to take a tour of Fresh Kills?
The Department of Parks & Recreation provides free bus tours of the Fresh Kills site from April through November. Please visit the tour sign–up section for further information.
Where does New York City’s trash currently go?
New York City's waste is now exported by private companies contracted by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY). The City's 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan calls for compacting and containerizing waste for export from transfer stations by barge or rail. Staten Island's waste is sent to DSNY's Staten Island Transfer Station, a 79,000 sq. ft. facility adjacent to the Freshkills Park site, where it is compacted, sealed into shipping containers and railed by a private contractor to a landfill in South Carolina. Waste from the Bronx and Brooklyn is railed to a landfill in Virginia; a similar system will be established for western Queens. Much of Manhattan's waste is trucked to a waste-to-energy plant in New Jersey. The City plans to reactivate several closed Marine Transfer Stations in the future for barge export.
Will Staten Island’s trash continue to go to the Fresh Kills transfer station once the park opens?
Yes. Staten Island's trash travels to the transfer station that is adjacent to the Freshkills Park site where it is packed onto trains to be taken to a landfill out-of-state.
Are the trees on the mounds planted or naturally occurring?
Many of the trees are “volunteers”—they are naturally occurring. In the early 1990s, researchers at Rutgers University planted trees on North Mound as part of a series of studies on seed dispersal and root penetration of the landfill cap, but these plots are small compared to the overall size of the site.
What kind of wildlife has returned to the site?
Over 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians were sighted at Fresh Kills last year. Most recent sightings have included: American Kestrel, Red–Tailed Hawk, Northern Snapping Turtle, Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Common Tern, Ring–Necked Pheasant, Red–Winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Egrets, Canada Goose, Muskrats, White–Tailed Deer and Cotton–Tailed Rabbit.
Landfill byproducts and infrastructure
How much Landfill gas (LFG) is collected from the site?
The Department of Sanitation collects approximately 10 million cubic feet of landfill gas (LFG) daily. This gas is purified at an onsite facility, and approximately 5 million cubic feet of pipeline–quality gas is sold daily to the local gas utility, National Grid. National Grid, in turn, distributes the gas to Staten Island residential and commercial customers, at a quantity capable of heating approximately 20,000 homes.
What is LFG composed of?
LFG is generated during the natural process of anaerobic bacterial decomposition of organic material contained in municipal solid waste landfills. Components of landfill gas include methane (approximately 50 percent) carbon dioxide (approximately 50 percent) and water vapor. It also contains small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and non–methane organic compounds.
What are the environmental benefits of collecting the LFG?
The recovery of methane from LFG and the use of recovered methane to produce pipeline–quality gas has two environmental benefits. First, recovery reduces greenhouse gas emissions through the conversion of methane into fuel. Second, by using the otherwise–wasted methane in the collected landfill gas to generate electricity, or by using it directly as a fuel, usage of fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal decreases.
Is landfill gas constantly being burned in the flare stations on site?
No, the flare stations are only used as a back–up when it is necessary to conduct maintenance on the landfill gas purification plant.
What is aerobic versus anaerobic decomposition?
Biological breakdown of organic material in solid waste occurs in a series of steps, progressing from aerobic activity (requiring oxygen) to anaerobic activity (in the absence of oxygen). Throughout the process of decomposition, organic material is broken down into smaller components, becoming available for different microorganisms to break it down further. When all of the oxygen is depleted, anaerobic microorganisms known as methanogens take over for aerobic microorganisms, converting organic material into methane or natural gas and carbon dioxide.
How much leachate comes off the site?
Leachate is created as water comes in contact with decomposing waste. The amount of leachate produced is directly linked to the amount of precipitation at Fresh Kills. The liquid waste content of the landfill also affects the quantity of leachate produced. A large landfill site will produce greater amount of leachate than a smaller site.
Currently, the leachate treatment plant at Fresh Kills processes up to 600,000 gallons of leachate daily. As the final cover nears completion on East and West Mounds, their production of leachate will diminish, as has production at North and South Mounds. However, water remaining in the landfill will cause the continued production of leachate.
The goal of the leachate management system is to contain, collect, and treat leachate before it reaches adjacent surface waters and groundwater or damages the final cover. This is achieved by minimizing the amount of water that comes in contact with refuse and treating the leachate that is created.
How is the leachate contained, and what is the Leachate Containment Wall made of?
Leachate containment is in part accomplished by a subsurface cut–off wall that serves as a barrier to restrict the exchange of water between the landfill and the surrounding area. The cut–off wall is connected to low–permeability soils that underlie the site and that already serve as a natural liner. The cut–off wall is constructed of a clay material and soil or cement bentonite.
How long will the landfill gas and leachate systems be monitored?
It is anticipated that it will take a minimum of thirty years before garbage decomposition is complete, associated gas production and settlement cease, and leachate fully drains from the site. As these processes occur, there will be a continuing need for regular maintenance, monitoring, and evaluation of the site and systems that have been put into place, primarily the final cover, landfill gas (LFG), and leachate systems, as well as the extensive network of monitoring wells. It is essential that access to these systems be preserved during this time for inspection, maintenance, and repair.
On average, what is the depth of all the soil and other materials above the waste?
Covering the waste below the geomembrane is a minimum of one foot of compacted soil or other suitable material, approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This is called the intermediate cover. In most places, it goes deeper—in some areas it is deeper than 18 feet. The amount is dependent on the final grades (slopes) that need to be established. The minimum grade is 4%, and the maximum is 33%. These grades are specified to help ensure the stability of the mound, promote positive drainage, and minimize erosion of the final cover. In addition to the intermediate cover below the geomembrane, more intermediate cover was placed while landfilling; the refuse was continually covered with a foot of intermediate cover material, so as to control odor, litter, vectors, and leachate generation.
Above the geomembrane, there is a minimum of 24 inches of barrier protection layer made up of dirt, and then a minimum of 6 inches of planting soil on top of that. Before the site can open for public access, an additional minimum of 2 feet of residential–quality soil needs to be placed over the entire site.
I have noticed that there are not as many odors coming from Fresh Kills. Why is that, and will this continue to be the case when it is a park?
Landfill odors are caused by decaying garbage that is handled and buried at the site. As no new garbage is being deposited at Fresh Kills, odors from landfill operations have diminished. The buried waste does produce an odorous landfill gas (LFG), but since 1999, most of these gases have been collected and controlled by a gas collection system that either burns or purifies that gas to harvest natural gas for use on Staten Island. Some gas does escape from the system into the open air at Fresh Kills, but the amount of this gas is below New York State regulatory requirements for public safety.
North and South Mounds underwent final capping and closure in the mid- to late-1990s. Final capping and closure are currently underway on East and West Mounds. As final cover continues to be layered on the mounds, gas emissions will continue to diminish until, essentially, all the gas will be captured by the system.
How much testing is going on with regards to the area’s drinking water?
The Department of Sanitation regulates and tests the water in and around Fresh Kills. However, no one in the area uses the ground water for drinking or irrigation—Staten Island’s water comes from the New York City supply, which comes from upstate.
Why isn’t the City moving the World Trade Center materials, as some family groups have requested?
The City evaluated numerous complex issues and varying perspectives in its consideration of the proposal to remove World Trade Center (WTC) materials from Fresh Kills. These included a review of the exhaustive recovery efforts previously undertaken, the logistics of removal, and the capacity to identify an alternative receiving site. The City listened to and considered proposals from members of the WTC Families for Proper Burial and differing views of other families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. Given this information, the City has determined that it would be best not to disturb the materials from the World Trade Center remaining at Fresh Kills.
During the 10–month recovery effort rescue workers carefully screened and sifted the 1.2 million tons of material that came from the WTC site to Fresh Kills. The search effort did not end until all discernable remains and effects were removed and taken to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office for identification and safekeeping.
After the FBI, NYPD, and Office of Emergency Management determined the process of retrieval had been exhaustive and complete, the screened and sifted WTC materials remaining at Fresh Kills were placed in a 48–acre area (the materials area), immediately adjacent to the recovery site on the West Mound (Section 1/9) at Fresh Kills. A layer of clean soil at least 1 foot deep was placed in this area prior to placement of the screened materials; afterward it was covered with additional clean soil to protect the site and control erosion. The area is clearly marked to prevent disturbance.
The screened material sifted during the course of the recovery effort included fines, materials that passed through a quarter–inch sieve. These fines amounted to approximately 360,000–480,000 tons. It is this material, estimated to be equivalent in volume to 1 acre, 200 feet high, which the City has been asked to move. Aside from the sheer quantity of materials involved, and the absence of a receiving site, the City understands that there are 9–11 families who are opposed to disturbing the 48–acre site on the West Mound.
The City, therefore, is proceeding, with input from the victims’ families and other interested citizens, on preliminary designs for an appropriately respectful treatment of the WTC materials area and a monument at the adjoining recovery site. The consultant preparing the Freshkills Park Draft Master Plan has proposed a processional earthwork, mirroring the forms of the Twin Towers for the top of the West Mound and outside the WTC materials area, in an expansive wildflower meadow. The final plan for the monument will be developed as part of the larger master planning public process. The city is committed to an on–going dialogue with all interested citizens.
Below is a selection of Freshkills Park press coverage that is available online and has been published since the Department of Parks & Recreation took over the project in 2006.
Five Boroughs in 48 Hours: Staten Island Dwell, February 2011.
Staten Islanders Imagine the Possibilities at Freshkills Staten Island Advance, October 4, 2010
Largest garbage dump a green oasis Reuters, April 23rd, 2010
Turning Trash Piles Into a Bird-Watcher’s Paradise The New York Times, January 25th, 2010
Fresh Kills: From Landfill to Landscape Time.com, September 9, 2009.
Former landfill is getting a new, greener look Staten Island Advance, July 8, 2009.
The City Concealed: Freshkills Park Project Thirteen/WNET, June 1, 2009.
Freshkills Park Design & Construction Update Municipal Arts Society, May 27, 2009.
New York landfill turns trash into treasure NBC Nightly News (web broadcast), May 20, 2009.
Wall-E Park New York Magazine, November 23, 2008.
The Long View Metropolis Magazine, November 19, 2008.
The Greening of Fresh Kills: in Graphic Exposition Popular Science blog, August 27, 2008.
Fresh Kills: Redeveloping one of the biggest landfills in the world Waste Management World, December 1, 2007.
One Generation's Trash Is Another's Treasure The New York Sun, July 25, 2006.
A New Scenic Destination: That's Right, It's Fresh Kills The New York Times, April 8, 2006.
If you are a member of the press looking for more information about Freshkills Park or wishing to gain access to the site, please contact the Parks Department Press Office at (212) 360–1311.
Freshkills Park Press Kit (PDF, 1.7 MB)
The Freshkills Park newsletter, Fresh Perspectives, aims to keep community members informed of the progress in bringing this innovative project to reality. Download past issues of Fresh Perspectives below.
NYC Teachers’ RRResource Guide: RRR You Ready?
Lesson plans and activity sheets for grades K–5 that comply with NYC Department of Education standards and help educators implement the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) at school, containing ideas for long–term activities and projects. The plans come with a VHS and DVD video on what happens to recyclables.
Read about the TrashMasters! – kids who take on recycling and waste prevention at their school.
- NYC Wastele$$
- NYC Stuff Exchange
- Materials for the Arts
- New York Wa$teMatch
- The New York City Compost Project
- Grow NYC – Office of Recycling Outreach and Education
New York State and City Partners
The New York State Department of State, Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability has provided funding to support the Freshkills Park project under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.
- NYC Department of Sanitation
- NYC Department of City Planning
- NYC Department of Transportation
- NY State Department of Transportation
- NYC Department of Design and Construction
- NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
- NYC Department of Environmental Conservation
- NY State Department of Environmental Conservation
- NYC Department of Environmental Protection
- NY State Department of Environmental Protection
- NYC Department of Health
- NY State Department of Health
- NY Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources
- Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
- James CornerField Operations
- BioHabitats, Inc.
- BKSK Architects
- Brandston Partnership Inc.
- Daniel Frankfurt
- PhilipHabib and Associates
- Sage & Coombe Architects
- Rogers Surveying
- Faithful & Gould