New York Launches First Phase of Fresh Kills Reuse Plan

PLANS TO TRANSFORM the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, N.Y., into a bucolic nature preserve and outdoor-activity park now are underway, but residents may not want to don their cycling helmets and bird-watching gear just yet.

Calling Fresh Kills a “historic wrong to the people of the borough” at a press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the $3.38 million “Master Plan” at the College of Staten Island in late September. Bloomberg announced the plans to reclaim Fresh Kills for a public-use park might not be realized in his lifetime.

Nevertheless, phase one of the plan has begun and will be complete by June 2005, according to the mayor's office. Currently, government officials and community leaders are being interviewed to gauge concerns and desires for the future use of the landfill. Then, the city will host public meetings to discuss the conceptual plan with the community. According to a spokeswoman at the mayor's office, residents are mostly concerned about environmental safety issues because the waste is producing methane gas. Residents and design engineers also are expressing concern about Fresh Kills' roads — how they will intersect with neighboring communities and whether they are safe and sturdy enough to accommodate traffic.

While the city listens to requests, Field Operations, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, will survey the 2,200-acre site to study its terrain, ecology, roads and recreational opportunities. The goal of phase one is to present Staten Island residents with a refined conceptual plan. Phase two requires completion of environmental and land use review procedures and state and federal regulatory reviews. After approximately 18 months, a Final Master Plan is expected.