Fresh Kills Redesign Finalists Announced

Now that the country's largest and most famous landfill has closed its doors, the city of New York must figure out what to do with it. Through the Fresh Kills design competition, three finalists recently were selected to renovate the 2,200-acre landfill, located in Staten Island, N.Y.

Initially, finalists went through a rigorous selection process that began with nearly 50 participants. After narrowing them down to 15, and holding another review, the city eventually shrunk the list to six candidates, each of whom received $50,000 to cover project-related expenses. The six were taken on a field trip to Fresh Kills on Sept. 6, 2001, plans were revised, and then the list was narrowed to three.

The remaining three — Philadelphia- and New York-based Field Operations, London-based JMP Landscape and John McAslin & Partners, and Los Angeles-based Rios Associates — all have submitted proposals to turn the landfill into a park that includes a World Trade Center (WTC) memorial to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Fresh Kills, which was closed in March 2001, was reopened last September to temporarily sort through the rubble and remains from the WTC attacks.

In its plan, Field Operations' “Lifescape” includes several recreational areas located adjacent to surrounding Staten Island neighborhoods, a natural forest and wetlands reserve, a golf course, bicycling and pedestrian paths, an equestrian center, athletic fields and an environmental education center.

JMP Landscape and John McAslin & Partners' plan includes a series of three perimeter parks, each leading down with “green fingers” to the creek shore; migration and energy centers; and an earth center featuring several native New York plants.

Rios Associates' “RePark” includes a memorial forest with trees that reflect the diverse cultures of the people who died in the terrorist attacks. A 3-mile-long picnic table made from recycled laundry detergent bottles, a water park, floating gardens and an annual garbage rodeo will further commemorate the park's roots.

A jury of architects, landscape designers and environmental scientists, as well as senior public officials with substantial knowledge of the Fresh Kills site, anticipate selecting the winner in the summer, after the three finalists submit additional plan details.

“We're hoping that the finalists' scope of services will be available by early spring [so that] a final decision can be made sometime during the summer,” says Jeff Sugarman, competition coordinator with New York's Department of City Planning.

The competition was delayed for about a month because of the terrorist attacks, and has been delayed further because of New York's changing mayoral administration. But, according to Ellen Ryan, director of planning issues for the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which is co-sponsoring the competition, “We're keeping the Bloomberg administration informed as best we can and hope it moves quickly.”

The final contract will be awarded to the winner on behalf of all city departments, but will not be complete until it has gained administrative approval.

The competition is being sponsored by the City of New York Departments of City Planning, Sanitation, Cultural Affairs, and Parks and Recreation; the MAS, a nonprofit; and the New York State Department of State (NYSDS), all of which provided financial support for the project. The Department of Sanitation, which has jurisdiction over the landfill, also will provide renovation funding.