Fresh Kills
Considering New Amsterdam’s Mountain of Life and Death

1272 Fresh Kills consists of a 2,200 acre waterfront site on Staten Island, with four principal dump mounds (hill 1/9, 3/4, 2/8, and 6/7), with creeks, marshlands, and roads. -Map from NYC Dept. of Sanitation

IT'S CALLED THE WORLD'S LARGEST landfill, and it may well be. It certainly is big, serving the nation’s largest city for over fifty years, until shutting down this year. Fresh Kills is many things. It is a new kind of landscape, one that is alive with movement -volatile off-gassing, leachate leakage, differential settlement. An undulating, dripping, vented bio-reactor of artificial organic decay, covered by a thin lid of soil.

It is a physical metaphor for the individual and collective desire to see one’s waste go away, and how there is no “away” after all (just ask the residents of Staten Island, or those of Sierra Blanca, Texas, the most distant point to receive New York’s sewage sludge, for that matter). Fresh Kills looms above New Jersey as the tallest of the many landfill hills that line the meadowlands like drumlins from a new geomorphological force - man.

It is a veritable vault of consumer culture information, with stratigraphic dating to the day, provided by the newspapers that don’t decay as quickly as people thought (according to the research of garbologists like Bill Rathje, of the ground breaking contemporary archeological team known as the Garbage Project).

And, as is now well known to America, Fresh Kills has acquired a new layer of meaning. The remains from the World Trade Center are now being interred there.

But, life goes on, and so must Fresh Kills’ redevelopment. An international design competition for redevelopment proposals for the closed landfill site is down to six finalists, all multidisciplinary teams composed of landscape architects, artists, and engineers (among them a team that includes the CLUI).

Yes, Fresh Kills Dump is many things, and of all things, it is a vital resource, a prominent reminder of the other side of life.

The six proposals for the Fresh Kills landfill redevelopment will be on display at the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences for much of December (located at 75 Stuyvesant Place, Staten Island. Call 718-727-1135 for more information). A public presentation by the various teams will be held at the nearby Richmond County Clerks office, on December 13th (for more information call Doug Brooks at 718-556-7240).