What is Fresh Kills?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Fresh Kills is a section of Staten Island in New York which was used as a landfill between 1948 and 2001. The site has become famous, primarily due to its sheer size; Fresh Kills is around three times the size of Central Park, and it can be readily identified in satellite images of Staten Island. Fresh Kills is also the site of an ambitious environmental remediation project, which aims to turn the location from a garbage heap into a sprawling public park with numerous environmentally friendly features.

All told, Fresh Kills covers around 220 acres (890 hectares) on the western side of Staten Island. It is located on the Fresh Kills estuary, which explains the name; “kill” is a Dutch word meaning “stream” or “river.” The site was opened in 1948 as a landfill, and originally intended to be temporary. By 2001, 20 barges were traveling to Fresh Kills daily with New Yorkers' garbage, and the site was becoming an environmental issue.

Towering piles of garbage at Fresh Kills sometimes loomed higher than some New York landmarks, and the site was so massive that people were comparing it to major archaeological landmarks, like the Great Wall of China. In March of 2001, Fresh Kills was closed, and the city began seeking out an alternative location for its garbage, opening the Staten Island Transfer Station on the site to process garbage for shipping off site.


In September 2001, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan presented a major problem to the city of New York: a huge pile of debris which had to be gotten rid of quickly, yet respectfully. The city realized that the cost of shipping debris from the site to a distant location would be formidable, so it reopened Fresh Kills specifically for the purpose of interning the World Trade Center debris. The site also hosted a mobile morgue, where anthropologists sifted through the tons of debris to search for human remains, with the goal of identifying as many victims as possible.

In 2003, the City of New York embarked on a plan to transform Fresh Kills, turning it into a public park with bridle paths, recreation areas, wind farms, and numerous native plant and animal species. As of 2008, the project was ongoing, and the site is closed to the public, although people can arrange special tours of Fresh Kills to learn more about the proposed park. If successful, the plan will certainly transform the face of Staten Island, and undoubtedly puzzle future archaeologists.


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Post 4

Living in New York City, I am well aware of the amount of trash that a city this size generates.

I also hear updates about Fresh Kills park on the news quite frequently. When you look at images of the Fresh Kills landfill from space compared to the proposed future images, you get a better idea of what they are hoping to accomplish.

This project is something that is going to be in the making for about 30 years, so it is a massive undertaking.

I hope I am around long enough to see it completed. From the plans I have heard, it sounds like it will be a beautiful, expansive place.

When I try to imagine something like this being 3 times bigger than Central Park, it is hard to wrap my mind around.

Post 3

I was in New York before 2001 and remember seeing the massive piles of garbage and debris before the Fresh Kills landfill was closed.

This really had a big impact on me as I realized how careless we are with our trash and what we throw away and don't even think about.

It is also overwhelming to think about the amount of trash that a place like New York City generates in just one day. There has to be some way to effectively deal with this that isn't so costly and harmful to the environment.

I think the recent emphasis on recycling is a good start. Our kids are much more mindful of this than I was at their age.

Ever since I saw those huge mounds of trash, I am much more aware of what I put in the trash and what I recycle.

Post 2

I wonder if there is any documentation of what the Fresh Kills landfill looked like before and after the debris from the 9/11 attacks was cleaned up? It seems like that would be a massive amount of new garbage dumped onto a site that was already filled to the limits.

I hope that in the future we can find more sustainable ways to deal with garbage and debris. If we can find ways to process or recycle materials on site instead of trucking them back and forth between facilities it would cut down significantly on the time and cost it takes to deal with waste

Post 1

It will be interesting to see what effects landfills have on the environment going into the future. We heard for a long time that the massive amounts of trash we produce would lead to catastrophe eventually but now the big environmental apocalypse scare seem to be global warming.

Fresh Kills is an interesting example though. That is one of those landfills that is infamous for being massive, disgusting and ecologically perilous. The proposed park makes it seem like there is nothing but healthy soil underneath but here is in fact a literal mountain of garbage, of all kinds, that will have some kind of odd effect on the land eventually. Maybe it will take 20 years to find out, maybe it will take 200.

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