This summer, an especially exciting species of bird decided to make its home at Freshkills Park. Sedge Wrens (Cistothorus platensis) nested for the first time in the Park’s history. Sedge Wrens are listed as Threatened in New York State, where they nest in small numbers, primarily in the St. Lawrence Valley and throughout the Lake Ontario Plain. Sedge Wrens are a rare visitor to New York City, where they last nested in 1960 in the vicinity of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
For the last two years artist partner Jade Doskow has been capturing Freshkills Park and her large format, full-color images of the site were featured in the New York Times Metro Section in August 2020. Her project illuminates the unusual beauty of Freshkills as it transforms both seasonally and via human-made intervention. Within each picture, Jade combines the beauty and luminosity of the Hudson River School of landscape paintings with the jarring, surreal structural elements inherent to the site — methane wells, leachate plants, roads built for landfill operations that are still in use today — Doskow’s images offer a vision of a new and highly engineered concept of wilderness.
In 2020, Freshkills Park took Discovery Day virtual and hosted Discovery Week from June 22nd through June 26th. To make the park more accessible, the Freshkills Park team and community partners, created virtual tours, downloads and experiences. Throughout the week, virtual attendees were able to learn about the history, wildlife, recreation, education, and art at the park
In 2019, Freshkills Park, in partnership with James Powers, hosted Fastnet: Plein-Air Drawing at Freshkills Park. This exhibition featured plein-air drawings and ink studies of Freshkills Park that were produced through a series of workshops held within a 20-foot shipping container called Fastnet. The exhibition was on display at the Arsenal Galley in Central Park from September – November 2019.
Wildlife monitoring, by air, by land, and by creek, is a continuing effort at Freshkills Park. In the summer of 2019, Freshkills Park researchers set up wildlife cameras to record animal activity on site and footage shows a snapshot of some of the larger mammals that inhabit the park, which included red foxes. In addition, researchers have been monitoring the diversity of fish species in the park’s Main Creek since 2016 as a means of tracking the health and quality of the aquatic ecosystems at the park. Additionally, researchers from the College of Staten Island completed their fourth year of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) bird banding at Freshkills Park.
Freshkills Park staff and local Staten Island residents came together at the Greenbelt Nature Center to participate in the first ever “Grasslands Dinner.” The evening centered on the history of grasslands in the United States, the biodiversity of plants and animals associated with these habitats, and how Freshkills Park is helping to bring grassland back to New York City. The discussion was held over a delicious vegetarian meal from Dig Inn, a restaurant that sources ingredients from their own Dig Farm in Chester, NY, as well as from other small-scale local farms.
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.
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.
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.