How New York Turned The World's Biggest Landfill Into Incredible Green Space

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How New York Turned The World's Biggest Landfill Into Incredible Green Space

The city of New York turned the world's biggest landfill into an incredible bio-diverse green space that is able to methane-power homes, in a decades-long project.

The 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island held around 150 million tons of rubbish - at its peak it was taking in 29,000 tons of residential waste every single day.

But now, almost 20 years later, it's been renamed Freshkills Park and has rolling hills, reclaimed wetlands and recreational areas with grass and trees.


Hard work from the Freshkills Park Alliance working alongside the sanitation department officials and local authorities has seen the area completely transformed since it was closed in 2001.

After launching a competition to find a design for the park, work began in 2008. Truck-loads of soil were brought in from New Jersey to cover plastic sheeting that lay over the mounds of rubbish.

Underneath, methane extraction pipes channelled the fumes from the garbage into Staten Island homes to provide power for heating and ovens.

"We're probably the only facility in the United States where the gas is purified and goes directly to consumers," said Ted Nabavi of New York City's Department of Sanitation, in a 2016 interview with Curbed.


"There's no landfill anywhere that has such high-quality methane."

The Fresh Kills landfill site back in 2002. Credit: Shutterstock
The Fresh Kills landfill site back in 2002. Credit: Shutterstock

In 2012 goats were brought in for their 'ecological restoration abilities'. According to the New York Times, the goats like to tuck into a reed called 'phragmites' which if left undisturbed, tends to take over.

Elsewhere, playgrounds, handball courts and a baseball diamond were all introduced.


Fields of native grass have been planted, while natural waterways weave through the park, which will be the second biggest in New York City.

According to the Parks Department, the former landfill spot is now home to 200 difference species of wildlife, including osprey, tree swallows, white-tailed deer, northern snapping turtles and American kestrels.

There's still work to be done and it's thought phases of development will be ongoing for several years to come, with a slated completion date of 2035-37 - but Phase One North Park, which is around 21 acres, is set to be opened in 2021.


The park already offers some early access tours and events to give visitors a chance to see all the hard work that's been poured into the area. In the future activities including kayaking, photography and hiking will be permitted at the park.

Freshkills park administrator Eloise Hirsh told Curbed: "Everybody all over the world has landfills, and now many more people are trying to figure out what to do with them, and we're kind of a big lab for that.

"And we actually decided , as a piece of what our mission is, to do scientific research about what it takes when you restore a very, very disturbed site.

"But the thing that I find so, actually, incredibly moving about it is just the grace with which nature comes back."


You can check out the Freshkills Park website here or the Instagram page here.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: Interesting, US News

Claire Reid
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