Tracey Morgan Gallery, in Ashville North Carolina, presented Jade Doskow: Freshkills, a new exhibition of photographs taken at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park. The exhibit ran from September 21, 2021 through October 30, 2021. Doskow’s large-scale photographs of the iconic New York City landfill-turned-park make clear its’ paradoxical, ethereal beauty, while creating an important archive of a major chapter in the story of New York City’s infrastructure. The works on display reflect the scope of the natural and unnatural systems at play in this unique, layered landscape.
Ecosystems and habitats, including grasslands, are a standard part of science curricula. However, most curricula teach about grasslands in the Great Plains or the African Savannah. Many of us don’t realize there are grasslands right here in New York City. Freshkills Park, in Staten Island, NY, contains over 1,000 acres of grassland habitat, the largest grassland ecosystem in New York State. These grasslands are home to unique animals and plants, including Grasshopper Sparrows, Little Bluestem, and Red Foxes. In 2021, Freshkills Park educators designed the first ever grasslands curriculum for NYC K-12 students.
In July 2020, the Freshkills Park Alliance research staff found vacant Cliff Swallow nests under the bridge connecting East and South Parks. Although this species was first recorded collecting nesting material in the Park in May 2018 it was not until July 2020 that nests, although vacant were found. Careful monitoring was rewarded on June 4, 2021 when the Alliance researchers found active nests for the first time. The Cliff Swallows nesting at Freshkills Park are the first confirmed on Staten Island since 1880.
On Monday, March 22, Freshkills Park Alliance President Eloise Hirsh along with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and New York City Department of Sanitation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Fresh Kills Landfill closure at Freshkills Park.
“Twenty years after its closure, the site of the former Fresh Kills Landfill is serving the city of New York with renewed purpose. It is truly incredible to watch and take part in the transformation of this former landfill into a sustainable urban oasis,” said Commissioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Mitchell J. Silver.
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.