New York's Next Post-Industrial Success Story?

Michael Kimmelman tours Fresh Kills landfill, once the world's largest garbage dump, and now a model for landfill reclamation and, unexpectedly, climate change mitigation.
December 18, 2012, 12pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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United States Federal Bureau of Investigation

For decades, Fresh Kills was a dirty word in New York's borough of Staten Island, and to many, what was once a notorious garbage dump, still is. But since its closing in 2001, the 2,200 acre site has become a model for ecological restoration - boasting the largest expanse of meadow in the region - and is, hopefully, on its way to becoming a public park. After protecting nearby neighborhoods like Travis, Bulls Head, New Springville and Arden Heights from more severe flooding during Superstorm Sandy, "it is also demonstrating the role of wetland buffers in battling rising waters," says Kimmelman.

The landfill's transformation into a public park, following the competition winning design of James Corner (designer of the High Line), has been stalled by regulatory and financial hurdles. But Kimmelman is hopeful that the area's transforming image "will help push officials to ready what is known as Freshkills Park for visitors," and repeat the success of the High Line in transforming a former industrial site into an unexpected amenity.

"Once it is opened to the public," he argues, "the park also promises to repay long-suffering Staten Island residents who endured generations of stench and anger, and more than that, to give the entire city an immense, bucolic urban playland — a 21st-century postindustrial landmark rising from mounds of 20th-century waste."

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Published on Monday, December 17, 2012 in The New York Times
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