How a huge landfill in New York was turned into a park

How a huge landfill in New York was turned into a park

Freshkills on Staten Island was once one of the largest landfills in the world. In 2001, the City of New York closed it and began the process of turning the landfill into a park. A football field was opened there in 2013, and a bicycle path was opened in 2015. North Park opened last weekend, the first section to give visitors access to the landfill’s interior, Bloomberg reported.

History of the landfill

Robert Moses, New York’s parks commissioner, chose Freshkills as a landfill site after World War II. It was a swampy area back then. Initially, it was planned to close the landfill in three years and build residential buildings on it, but New York was growing quickly and more and more garbage needed to be transported somewhere. The landfill received up to 29 thousand tons of garbage every day, which took up more and more space and created a strong stench. After many lawsuits, the city began converting the landfill.

Difficulties of conversion

Photo: IStock

In North Park, trash has formed four mounds along a creek where people kayak. Six layers of soil, sand and a plastic backing were placed on top of this debris to prevent toxic leaks. They also created a ventilation layer that directs waste gas fumes into special pipes.

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“The biggest challenge in converting the landfill was meeting our community’s expectations,” comments Mark Murphy, Freshkills Park Administrator, “and also determining what the land could realistically be used for.”

Future of the area

More than 500 of America’s former landfills have been converted into energy projects that convert waste from landfills into fuel. Deep underground in Freshkills (890 hectares), there is a gas collection system that sucks up waste fumes and sends them to a refinery where methane is removed from the fumes. The city sells 1,200 cubic meters of this purified biogas to a local utility, which distributes it to Staten Island homes.

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