Do you want to feel like you’ve gone out to the country without leaving the five boroughs? Then today is the day for you!
The old Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island is currently being turned into a massive city park called, wait for it, Freshkills Park. Yes, the landfill is two words, but the park is one. Sort of like how the Throgs Neck Bridge has one "g," but the Throggs Neck neighborhood has two.
Anyway, upon completion, the park be 2,200 acres in size, making it second only the Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. It may also be the largest ever landfill to park conversion.
I got a tour Friday from Eloise Hirsh, the Park Administrator for Freshkills Park, who has had been working for the city on and off since the John Lindsay administration. When she first came to see the site she said it "was like falling in love." It was an April day and pheasants were dancing.
Also serving as tour guide was the man with whom she said she's "joined at the hip"—Adam Conanan, who is Landfill Director at the Department of Sanitation.
While the full Freshkills park isn't expected to open until perhaps 2030, 300 acres of it will be open to you for a sneak peek at today. It's an event called Sneak Peak, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It's called Sneak Peak because one of the parts that will be open to the public is the North Park area (also known as Secton 3/4), which boasts a hill with some really fantastic views. You can see Manhattan, Jersey City, Newark, the Bayonne Bridge, and some of the beautiful parkland.
Conanan is a native Staten Islander and you could also see his elementary school from North Park. He said he and his friends would sneak on to the property and up the hill as kids. Now he's helping run the place. Pretty cool.
From the South Park area (aka Section 2/8), which will not be open on Sunday, you can actually see part of all four vehicular bridges that connect Staten Island to the rest of the world as well as the parachute drop on Coney Island.
In addition to the view, there will be kayaking, walking tours, biking, kite flying, climbing walls, pony rides, and workshops on composting. Plus, what NYC event would be complete without food trucks—Rock N Roll NYC, Toum, Coolhaus, Mac Truck NYC, and Crif Dogs will all be there.
To get there, you can drive (beware, the Brooklyn Battery, er, Hugh L. Carey Tunnel will be closed most of Sunday for the Tunnel to Towers Run), take the S62 bus from within Staten Island, or take a free shuttle bus from the St. George ferry terminal.
Additionally, here are some surprising things about Freshkills Park: First among them is that most of the site doesn't really look like a landfill. The hills are rolling and there are picturesque waterways. Plus, as already mentioned, there are the views of other parts of the Tri-State Area.
There are over 500 small gas wells dotting the property, but they're not very big. They're there because NYC's trash is being turned into natural gas.
Ted Nabavi, Director of Waste Management Engineering for the Department of Sanitation, said landfill gas is generated "as a result of anaerobic decomposition of municipal waste."
That gas is collected by the wells, sent to a purification facility, and then sold to National Grid, which then sends it directly to people's homes. Hirsh said they expect to be getting gas from the landfill for another 30 years.
Conanan revealed this fun fact: There is no Section 5 at Freshkills Park, but there are sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. They don't quite know why.
Another surprising thing about Freshkills Park is that it doesn't stink. It actually smells rather pleasant. So, if you've never been to the outermost of the outer boroughs, take the time on today and check it out. I finally made it out there and I'm really happy I did.