Fresh Kills, Staten Island

Fresh Kills, Staten Island

former landfill, Fresh Kills Park, ecological history, site history


History of Fresh Kills Landfill

Fresh Kills Landfill opened in 1948 in what was then a rural agricultural area. It became one of the largest refuse heaps in human history. The site is 4.6 square miles in area and can be seen from outter space. When opened, a fairly limited lifespan of twenty years was planned after which the area would be split into industrial, park, and residential areas.

At the peak of operations, the contents of twenty barges - each carrying 650 tons of garbage - were added to the site every day. It could be regarded as being the largest man-made structure on Earth, with the site's volume eventually exceeding the Great Wall of China. In fact, in 2001 its peak was 25 meters taller than the Statue of Liberty. Under local pressure and with support of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the landfill site was closed on March 22, 2001.  However, after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the world trade centerSeptember 11, 2001 attacks, the landfill was temporarily reopened to receive and process much of the debris from the destruction. The debris was never removed and is buried in a 40 acre portion of the landfill. The New York City Medical Examiner in a written affidavit has stated that he is virtually certain the debris contains human remains.

Operations during the 1960s were conducted in three different locations named "Plant 1", "Plant 2", and "Brookfield Avenue." Plant #1 was located at the site of an old factory on the south side of junction of the Great Fresh Kills and Little Fresh Kills. It was reachable via Muldoon Avenue. Plant #2 was located a bit upstream on the north side of Fresh Kills near where Richmond Creek branches off. It was reachable from Victory Blvd. The Brookfield Avenue site was north of the Arthur Kill Road and Brookfield Avenue intersection.

Plant 1 was the administrative headquarters and also the main repair facility. Plant 1 and Plant 2 were marine unload operations. Barges arrived from the other boroughs (primarily Manhattan and Brooklyn). Garbage was picked up by a crane (called a "digger") using clamshell bucket and deposited in a tracked side dump vehicle called an "Athey wagon." (not related to equipment of the same name used for oil drilling) Two wagons were than pulled to the active dump site by tractor (Caterpillar D7, D8, D9) and emptied. The Plant 1 digger was electric but the Plant 2 one was steam powered. The diggers were supplemented by other cranes (mostly mounted on barges). A typical day would unload twelve barges (six at each plant). Operations were carried out from 8AM to midnight six days a week. The midnight to 8AM shift was maintenance.

To expand the Plant 2 operating area, a wooden trestle bridge was built across Fresh Kills creek. This allowed dumping east to Richmond Avenue. As the actual dump site moved further from paved roads, it become more difficult for trucks to unload. The Brookfield Avenue site was opened in 1966 and used exclusively for trucks.

The dump was in a state of flux. Original plans showed the dump with a twenty year life span. One plan for the West Shore Expressway Bridge included a tide gate which would have blocked Plant 2's access. The bridge, when finally built in 1959, actually enhanced operations. The bridge was finished long before the rest of the expressway and was used by workers to travel between the two plants.

Ecological and Habitat Maps


Fresh Kills: Landfill to Landscape
international deisgn comptition : 2001
Brochure out out by DSNY




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