Right smack dab in the heart of New York City, you’d never expect to find a sprawling 2,200 acre park featuring rolling hills, baseball diamonds, kayaking streams and playgrounds. Even more surprising is the fact Freshkills Park was once the world’s biggest landfill, processing as much as 29,000 tons of garbage per day during its peak operation in 1986-1987.
Fresh Kills Landfill was established in 1948 and was finally closed down in 2001. At one time, it was New York City’s only landfill. City officials estimate there to be about 150 million tons of trash buried at the former dump site. The last rubble to enter the landfill before it closed was that of the World Trade Center.
According to the City of New York Parks and Recreation department, the Freshkills Park is a work in progress that will be completed in phases over the next 30 years. By 2042, they hope to have solar panels, wind turbines and a host of park features rivaling that of any park in the country.
If you visited Freshkills today, you’d never know that it was once a gigantic landfill. The only signs that millions of tons of garbage are deep beneath your feet are the occasional methane pumps you may see protruding from the ground.
These pumps extract methane gas produced by rotting garbage to fuel more than 2,200 homes on Staten Island – it brings in $11 million per year in revenue for the city.
Developers of the Freshkills Park project have taken drastic measures to ensure the safety of visitors to the park as well as the environment.
The landfill was capped with several layers of protective barriers that are several feet deep to help prevent erosion from washing away the topsoil and exposing the underlying trash. There are also a total of 238 groundwater monitoring wells installed in the park to help ensure water quality standards are met.
The Freshkills project is a symbol of renewal for the New York City area. Land that was literally once a wasteland is now an expansive park system to be enjoyed by area residents and wildlife.