Years ago I used to drive to Staten Island to visit the Macys store. The smell getting out of the car was beyond terrible. Life has changed out there and Freshkills Park is in the pinnacle of this change.
I took a drive out to Freshkills Park with Eloise Hirsh, the Freshkills Park Adminstrator who happened to be the first Deputy Commissioner of the New Year City Department of Parks and Recreation in the Koch Administration. She has always been passionate about parks and planning. Eloise and her husband moved to Pittsburgh for almost two decades and when she returned to NYC, she wanted to do something part-time with the parks. Adrian Benepe, who is the current Commissioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation took Eloise to Freshkills and before you knew it, she was not exactly working part-time as she hoped but instead headed up the Freshkills Park because she became passionate about the park.
Freshkills is located at the end of Staten Island. 468,000 people live in Staten Island (one of the largest growing counties in the state) and to give you perspective that there are 305,000 people living Pittsburgh (which is shrinking). The park is 2200 acres which is three times the size of Central Park. Methane is generated from the landfills at Freshkills which generates enough heat for 22000 homes in State Island. All impressive statistics. This is one of the many lines that are collecting the gas.
The soil out there is cleaner than any other soil in the city, hands down as it is a state of the art landfill conversion generating energy. What is more impressive is how incredibly beautiful the park is. Currently the park is undergoing development in small chunks that the city has funded to develop 50 acres.
The birds are beautiful out there. There is a kayak house that is always filled to capacity. The biggest question is how do we get more people out to this park as it is like no other park in the boroughs of NYC. Music festivals, art installations, educational experiences, small farms…we will see.
The vistas, the meadows, the sheer beauty of a park of this size in our own backyard is a park that is in need of lots of TLC to create another destination location that gives us all a break from the concrete jungle we live in everyday.