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Isle of Meadows, Fresh Kills, 5.21.1933

Fresh Kills - 1930

The Fresh Kills site in its natural state was primarily tidal creeks and coastal marsh. The name “Fresh Kills” comes from the Middle Dutch word kille, meaning “riverbed” or “water channel.” In the early 1900s it was a stream and freshwater estuary in the western portion of the New York City borough of Staten Island. Image: Isle of Meadows, Fresh Kills, 1933, via the Staten Island Museum.

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Fresh Kills Landfill 1943

Fresh Kills Landfill Opens - 1948

Fresh Kills Landfill was established by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and the City of New York.  The initial idea was to keep the landfill open for about three years and “fill” the wetlands at the 450-acre site to prepare it for development. Robert Moses has been called the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City. He was instrumental in the construction of numerous bridges, highways, and parks, including Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, which was formerly the Ash Dump referred to in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

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Fresh Kills Landfill 1951 Map

Proposal for Development - 1951

The City of New York and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses issued a proposal for development at Fresh Kills.  The plan suggests that the area could be used for parks, private residential development, and an industrial zone along the west shore. Source: November 1951 Proposal for Development.

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Fresh Kills Landfill

Landfill grows to 1,284 acres - 1961

By 1955, Fresh Kills was the largest landfill in the world, serving as the principal landfill for household garbage collected in New York City. The landfill grew to 1,284 acres in 1961. At around this time, the City of New York announced that dumping at Fresh Kills would continue for 15 more years. Image: DSNY Photo Archive. 

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Fresh Kills Landfill

Fresh Kills receives half of NYC’s garbage - 1971

After landfills in the Bronx are closed, Fresh Kills received nearly half the city’s garbage. Image: DSNY Photo Archive.

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Fresh Kills Landfill

New York State Consent Order to Close Landfill - 1990

April: The Fresh Kills Landfill Consent Order was issued between the City of New York and New York  State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The consent order required compliance with New York State’s Solid Waste Management Facilities Regulations 6 NYCRR 360, specified conditions for closure of Section 2/8 and 3/4 and interim operation of Fresh Kills Landfill, and identifies collection of landfill gas as an integral part of the closure plan. Image: DSNY Photo Archive.

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Map of NYC landfills - Dennis Diggins DSNY

Fresh Kills accepts all of NYC’s garbage - 1991

At its peak of operation, Fresh Kills received as much as 29,000 tons of trash per day and employed 680 people. When Edgemere Landfill in Queens closed in 1991, Fresh Kills became the only active landfill in New York City.

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Guy Molinari

Staten Island BP Molinari Files Lawsuit - 1996

Alleging Clean Air Act violations, the suit was the culmination of a decades-long effort to close Fresh Kills Landfill. Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari filed the lawsuit against the Mayor of the City of New York, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation, Governor of the State of New York, and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Image: “The Fresh Kills Story: From World’s Largest Garbage Dump to a World-Class Park.”

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Fresh Kills Landfill

New York State Law Passes to Close Landfill - 1996

New York State Law was passed requiring the landfill to cease accepting solid waste by December 31, 2001. Image: DSNY Photo Archive.

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South Mound Capped

South Mound Capped - 1996

South Mound was the first of the four landfill mounds to be closed and covered with a thick, impermeable cap. This section makes up 425 acres of the 2,200 acre site and is adjacent to Arthur Kill Road. Learn about the plan for South Mound.

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North Mound capped

North Mound Capped - 1997

North Mound was capped soon after South Mound. This 233-acre section is close to Schmul Playground and the Travis neighborhood. Learn about the plan for North Mound.

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Fresh Kills Last Barge

Last Barge - 2001

March 22: Fresh Kills Landfill received its last barge of household solid waste.

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Landfill Timeline preview

Landfill Timeline - 2001

The timeline of the landfill’s operation was put together for the catalogue of the exhibit called “Fresh Kills: Artists Respond to the Closure of the Staten Island Landfill,” mounted at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center‘s Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art in 2001. Courtesy of the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Diana Yates Staten Island Advance and photographer Michael Falco. See the full timeline.

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Fresh Kills Competition

Design Competition - 2001

To take advantage of the potential for the adaptive end use of this unique site, the City of New York, in association with the Municipal Art Society, New York State Department of State, New York City Department of Sanitation, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, conducted an International Design Competition to foster the development of a master plan for Freshkills Park. The goal was to attract the best talent, worldwide, to generate ideas and innovative park designs that would meet the needs of the City’s communities, and respond to the natural and constructed history of the site. On September 5th 2001, The City of New York announced the start of the International Design Competition. Read about the planning process. Image: NYC Department of City Planning.

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September 11

September 11 - 2001

After the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, the state consent order closing the landfill was amended by Governor George Pataki in order to allow for the transfer of materials from the World Trade Center site to Fresh Kills. Photo by Michael Falco.

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RIOS Associates, Inc.

Design Competition Finalists - 2001

December: Three finalist teams were chosen by a jury of professionals to compete for selection as planning consultant: First Place: Field Operations – Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY Second Place: JMP Landscape and John McAslan + Partners – London, England, UK Third Place: RIOS Associates, Inc. – Los Angeles, CA See the finalist entries. Image: RIOS Associates, Inc.  

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September 11

September 11 Recovery Effort - 2002

During the 10–month recovery effort after September 11, rescue workers carefully screened and sifted the 1.2 million tons of material that came from the World Trade Center site to Fresh Kills. The search effort did not end until all discernible materials 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 immediately adjacent to the recovery site on the West Mound 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. Photo by Michael Falco.

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Field Operations lifescape layers

Field Operations Wins Design Competition - 2003

June: Landscape architecture firm Field Operations was selected as the planning and design consultant. Image: NYC Department of City Planning.

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Bloomberg -

Draft Master Plan Announcement - 2003

September: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the official kick-off of the $3.38-million Draft Master Plan process that would map out the future use of the Fresh Kills site. Read the Mayor’s announcement.

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public meetings

Public Review - 2004

Between Fall 2004 and Spring 2006, a series of meetings and workshops were conducted where New Yorkers were able to communicate their vision for the future of Fresh Kills. A number of guiding principles were the result of the process and were used to develop the Draft Master Plan. Learn more about the public review process.

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Owl Hollow Fields Announcement

Owl Hollow Fields Announcement - 2005

August 22: Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of Owl Hollow Soccer Fields.

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draft master plan

Draft Master Plan - 2006

Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning Director Amanda M. Burden announced the release of the Draft Master Plan for Freshkills Park.

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Video: “It’s My Park: Freshkills – Staten Island” - 2006

Video produced by Adrian Sas, 2010. In 2006, the Department of Parks & Recreation began offering guided bus tours of the future park. The tours were organized by a Freshkills Park staff member and led by Urban Park Rangers.  

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Eloise Hirsh

Freshkills Park Administrator - 2006

The Freshkills Park Administrator, Eloise Hirsh, was chosen by the Department of Parks & Recreation and began work overseeing park development. Read the Daily Plant article.

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East Mound Capping

East Mound Capping Begins - 2007

East Mound Capping began in 2007. The 482-acre section sits along Richmond Avenue near the Staten Island Mall. Learn about the plan for East Mound.

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Fresh Kills Park GEIS

Freshkills Park Final GEIS - 2009

The Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) was released in March 2009. Download it from the Public Review page. Pursuant to state and local law, the document identifies any potential adverse environmental effects of proposed actions, assesses their significance, and proposes measures to eliminate or mitigate significant impacts. The chapters of the document are available for download, below, as individual PDF documents. Hard copies are also available at all Staten Island libraries and Community Boards.   Image: Special Natural Waterfront Area (Figure 12-2).

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east park roads

Freshkills Park East Park Roads SEIS - 2009

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation prepared a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) that analyzed the construction of park roads through East Park, examining the potential impacts in greater detail than previously examined in the GEIS and also examining park road phasing, impacts on Landfill Section 6/7 and the associated landfill infrastructure, and further examining road options and alternatives. This Statement of Findings documents that environmental review process and conclusions presented in both the GEIS and SEIS. Download the Freshkills Park GEIS and SEIS Statement of Findings, October 2009

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Sneak Peak Postcard

First Sneak Peak - 2010

The first large-scale, public event was held at the Freshkills Park site in October 2010. Sneak ‘Peak’ was a one-day festival celebrating Staten Island’s landfill-to-park project as an icon for the 21st century. The event drew approximately 1,800 visitors.

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Schmul Park Groundbreaking

Schmul Park Groundbreaking - 2010

October 27: Mayor Bloomberg broke ground on the renovation of Schmul Park and Playground in Travis. The park dates to in 1939 and bears the name of the family that donated a piece of their farm to the city. Read the article in the Staten Island Advance. Pictured: Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Freshkills Park Administrator Eloise Hirsh. 

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Fresh Kills 10th Anniversary

10-Year Anniversary - 2011

The New York City Departments of Sanitation and Parks & Recreation celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the last barge of waste to Fresh Kills Landfill by welcoming a barge loaded with young trees to the site.

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Freshkills Park Kayaking

Kayaking - 2011

Freshkills Park teamed with Kayak Staten Island to hold the first public kayak event on site.

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Visitor Center

Visitor Center - 2012

February: The new Freshkills Park Visitor Center opened in a refurbished construction trailer on-site. The Visitor Center was designed by New York-based design firm, Project Projects, and features a green roof, bright graphics, and creative displays detailing the past, present, and future of Freshkills Park.

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Wetland Restoration

Goatscaping - 2012

In June and July, a herd of goats helped out in the Main Creek Wetland Restoration by eating phragmites, an invasive reed. The pilot restoration project’s objective was to remove phragmites, increase ecosystem habitats via native species plantings, stabilize the shoreline to combat sea level rise, and improve water quality.

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Video: “The Fresh Kills Story,” Staten Island Borough President’s Office - 2012

Video: “The Fresh Kills Story: From World’s Largest Garbage Dump to a World-Class Park.” One-hour documentary by Andy Levison, Staten Island Borough President’s Office. Presented by Borough President James P. Molinaro.

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Schmul Park Reopens

Schmul Park Reopens - 2012

Schmul Park, the first complete park project, reopened in the Travis Neighborhood. The project included renovating the playground with colorful shaped surfaces to echo the topography of the park, new handball and basketball courts, creating what will become a tree-lined entrance to North Park, and building a comfort station with water and energy saving measures.

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Super Storm Sandy

Super Storm Sandy - 2012

On October 29, Super storm Sandy hit Staten Island. The wetlands and landfill mounds of Freshkills acted as a buffer for the neighboring communities and Freshkills was used as a temporary debris transfer station.

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Owl Hollow Soccer Fields

Owl Hollow Fields Open - 2013

April: Owl Hollow Fields opened, with four soccer fields (two of which are lighted), and a landscaped path. The LEED certified comfort station remains to be built.

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Freshkills Park Hiking

Hiking - 2013

With the first hiking program at Freshkills Park, hiking becomes a regular part of the programs on site.

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Wetland Restoration

Main Creek Wetland Restoration Complete - 2013

On June 6, the Main Creek Wetland Restoration pilot project was completed. This project stabilized the shoreline, created new salt marsh habitat, and removed invasive species.

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Solar Array Plan Announced

Solar Array Plan Announced - 2013

It was announced that Freshkills Park will host New York City’s largest solar array, large enough to power more than 2,000 homes.

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Partnership with Ariel Sharon Park

Partnership with Ariel Sharon Park - 2014

Freshkills Park entered into a sister park partnership with Ariel Sharon Park in Tel Aviv, a similar landfill to park conversion in a large city.

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West Mound Capping Resumes

West Mound Capping Begins - 2014

After East Mound capping completed in 2011, West Mound was the last remaining landfill section to be capped. At 440 acres, West Mound is the site’s largest, with the West Shore Expressway to the east and the Arthur Kill to the west. It’s bordered by the LFG Purification Plant, Leachate Treatment Plant, and SI District 3 Garage and Borough Repair Shop. An earthwork monument is envisioned atop the mound in remembrance of the September 11 recovery effort that occurred in this location.

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Video: 2014 Sneak ‘Peak’ Greenway Adventure - 2014

Highlight reel shot and edited by Will Ellis: Sneak ‘Peak’ was a one-day festival celebrating Staten Island’s landfill-to-park masterpiece, Freshkills Park, an icon for the 21st century. On September 28, 3,000 people came to see the park in its current glory, learn about its future and experience land transformation and renewal.    

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Video: “Make Freshkills Park Your Park” - 2015

Edited by Will Ellis, with videography by Will Ellis and Arbuckle Industries.  “Freshkills Park is one of the largest most ambitious public works projects in the city’s history, and a symbol of renewal and environmental restoration.The Freshkills Park Alliance is working with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Sanitation to bring the public into this place before the entire 2,200 acres of the park are open.” Learn more about the Freshkills Park Alliance.  

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New Springville Greenway

New Springville Greenway Complete - 2015

Construction on the New Springville Greenway was completed in the summer of 2015. The 3.2-mile path along the eastern edge of Freshkills Park creates north/south bike access parallel with Richmond Avenue.

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BioBlitz - 2015

In partnership with CUNY Macaulay Honors College, over 400 Macaulay students, nature lovers and citizen scientists canvassed 300 acres of North Park during BioBlitz to count the plants and animals that call the park home. The data collected from the 24-hour survey will help Freshkills Park begin to document the resurgence of wildlife and the biodiversity at the site, and will be used throughout the year in CUNY Macaulay Honors College classes and projects.

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Roads Preliminary Design Report

Roads Preliminary Design Report - 2015

The October 2015 report contains the results of a series of evaluations and studies undertaken to determine a schematic design for  improved roadway connections between the West Shore Expressway Service Roads and Richmond Avenue within the Park.

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New Springville Greenway Ribbon Cutting

New Springville Greenway Ribbon Cutting - 2015

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined Deputy Borough President Ed Burke, Assemblyman Michael Cusick, NYC Department of Sanitation Chiefs Steve Montanino and Chief Adam Conanan, Staten Island Parks Commissioner Lynda Ricciardone, and Freshkills Park Administrator Eloise Hirsh to cut the ribbon on the New Springville Greenway located along Freshkills Park on Richmond Avenue. Read the Daily Plant Article.

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Discovery Day

Discovery Days - 2015

Over 4,500 people visited the park during public events in 2015. Two Discovery Days offered visitors the chance to discover the landfill-to-park project with kayaking, bikes, tours, and miles of hiking trails.

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Freshkills Park is Named One Of Five “Anchor Parks”

Freshkills Park is Named One Of Five “Anchor Parks” - 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced that the City will invest $150 million in major improvements at five large parks under the new Anchor Parks initiative. This funding will allow NYC Parks to open up new sections of Freshkills Park. Read More

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Discovery Day

Discovery Days - 2016

On May 15th, June 26th, and September 18th, a total of over 4,000 visitors had the chance to explore 700 acres and 8 miles of the otherwise closed site with free tours and recreation.

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"Freshkills Park: Landscape in Motion" Photography Exhibition

“Freshkills Park: Landscape in Motion” Photography Exhibition - 2016

Installed September 22 – November 26, 2016 at the Staten Island Arts Culture Lounge in the St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminal, “Freshkills Park: Landscape in Motion” was the exhibition capstone to a landscape photography competition organized by Freshkills Park with the Staten Island Advance. The exhibition told the story of the site transformation from landfill to park through photography and featured 12 winning photographs of the competition alongside historical photographs from the Staten Island Institute archives and a virtual reality feature of Freshkills Park. Learn more.

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Field R/D

New “Field R/D” Art Project Begins - 2017

In the spring, artists began participating in a new art-research project called Freshkills Park: Field R/D. Organized by artist/curator Dylan Gauthier and Freshkills Park’s Mariel Villeré, the project involves independent and collaborative research, site visits and field trips, shared meals and conversations over the course of several months. The goal of Field R/D is to work with artists to develop an approach for bringing exhibitions, discussions and event series to Freshkills Park. (Photo: Dylan Gauthier)

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Discovery Day

Discovery Days - 2017

Discovery Day events in June and October provided free access to hundreds of acres and miles of trails in the otherwise closed site, with opportunities to explore and learn about the landfill-to-park project.

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North Park Groundbreaking

North Park Groundbreaking - 2017

November 9: NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver joined Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Staten Island Deputy Borough President Ed Burke and Assembly Member Michael Cusick to break ground on phase one of North Park. The 21-acre section of the former Fresh Kills landfill will be the first section inside the Fresh Kills Landfill boundaries to open to public.

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Studio + Gallery

Studio + Gallery Opens - 2018

The Freshkills Park Studio + Gallery on Richmond Avenue began exhibiting work in early 2018. The space is open on select days for programs and viewing hours. The art and cultural programs offered aim to promote understanding of and access to the landfill-to-park transformation; develop innovative strategies in ecological restoration; and incite socio-environmental change through education and demonstration.

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Reclaimed Lands Conference

Reclaimed Lands Conference - 2018

The four-day Reclaimed Lands Conference brought together researchers, practitioners, planners, ecologists, artists, designers, community groups, and students to bridge the gaps between disciplines and productively explore the issues and initiatives surrounding these post-industrial reclaimed landscapes. With field trips and panels at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU Tisch, participants discussed topics like monitoring changes in biodiversity, designing ecologically sustainable re-development, engaging residents in stewardship, and transforming public perceptions.

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Discovery Day

Discovery Days - 2018

Discovery Day events in June and September provided free access to hundreds of acres and miles of trails in the otherwise closed site, with opportunities to explore and learn about the landfill-to-park project.

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