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Landfill to Landscape: The Future of Fresh Kills

freshkills wetland

Opened in 1948 in an area rich with tidal wetlands, Fresh Kills Landfill was the world’s largest landfill. Until now. The City of New York has fulfilled its promise to close Fresh Kills Landfill for good.

Located along the western boundary of Staten Island, Fresh Kills encompasses more than 2000 acres, which is more than 2½ times larger than Central Park. In its years of operation, the landfill’s four mounds have grown to heights ranging from about 90 to 225 feet above sea level. Despite this, Fresh Kills Landfill retains within its boundaries intact wetlands and significant wildlife habitats. Many New Yorkers would be surprised to discover areas of tremendous natural beauty throughout Fresh Kills.

The City and the MAS would like to see this remarkable, if controversial, site transformed into a world-class recreational and scenic amenity for the borough of Staten Island, the city, and the entire tri-state region. To this end, the City is sponsoring a two-stage international design competition through the Department of City Planning, in association with the MAS, as well as the Departments of Sanitation, Parks and Recreation, and Cultural Affairs.

William H. Liskamm, FAIA, an expert in leading design competitions nationwide, has been selected to serve as the Professional Advisor for the design competition. Mr. Liskamm, who is based in San Francisco, is supported by Gavin Keeney, MLA, who is the Director of Landscape Agency New York.

The purpose of the competition is to solicit design, engineering, ecology, art and planning professionals to submit conceptual master plans for the end use of the Fresh Kills Landfill. In stage one, six multi-disciplinary design teams were invited to compete after an initial open solicitation for qualifications. Each team received a fee toward their participation in this competition. In the fall of 2001, a jury comprised of experts in various fields, from landscape architecture to bioengineering to the humanities were convened to select the six teams to embark on the second stage of the competition. In December, 2001, The Department of City Planning announced the three teams selected by the jury. Field Operations, of Philadelphia PA, ranked first, followed by JMP Landscape and John McAslan + Partners of London UK, and RIOS Associates, INC, of Los Angeles, CA. Each firm leads a multidisciplinary team of engineers, ecological scientists, economists, architects, and landfill experts. The City intends to negotiate and contract with the winning teams for preparation of master plan documents required to guide the phased end use of the site. Public exhibits and workshops are planned to disseminate the competition results and ideas to the local and tri-state community.

Support for the competition and public programs has been provided to the Municipal Art Society by the Merck Family Fund; HSBC Bank USA; NRG Arthur Kill Operations, Inc.; the J.M. Kaplan Fund; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the New York City Environmental Fund; the Richmond County Savings Bank; SI Bank & Trust Foundation; and Ian Schrager Hotels.