Fresh Photos of Fresh Kills: A Landfill Transformed

freshkills park landscape photo

The Fresh Kills mound. Photo by Nathan Kensinger.

When New York City decided to turn its 4.6-square-mile Fresh Kills landfill into a recreational nature area three times the size of Central Park, city officials touted it as "the park project of our time." That's a lot of hype to live up to, but eight years after the landfill closed, some new images by a local photographer indeed show a radically transformed landscape."Fresh Kills is now a rather quiet and serene site. Its landscape has more in common with a western prairie then with Staten Island's heavily forested hills," Brooklyn-based photographer Nathan Kensinger wrote on his website after a recent visit. "Low scrub brush, a few scattered trees, and winding dirt roads look out on Fresh Kills itself, which is a peaceful freshwater stream meandering between man-made hills. Deer and osprey have made this their home."

From Landfill to Prairie-Like Landscape
Even as he captures the area's gentle contours and vanishing roads, Kensinger also turns his attention to the reminders of its toxic legacy -- the system of vents, wells, and flare stations that collect or burn off methane and other dangerous gases building up underneath the newly reclaimed land.

freshkills bird river park photo

A methane extraction well (left) and a passive vent amid the new nature are reminders of the land's old face. Photos by Nathan Kensinger.

Specializing in abandoned and out-of-the-way parts of New York, Kensinger's work does not have an explicitly environmental perspective, but many of his twice-monthly online photo essays look at neglected potential bits of open space, such as the tiny beaches and parks along the Harlem River or a polluted creek that also serves as "a quiet haven in the heart of [an] industrial dead zone."

Likewise, his images of grand old buildings -- or even entire neighborhoods -- gone to seed can serve as a reminder of how much opportunity there is to retrofit already built parts of even our most prosperous cities instead of letting them sprawl further and further out.

Freshkills Park itself is closed to the general public until 2010 as that kind of restoration effort is carried out, though the parks & recreation department does offer free tours of the work in progress, including a bird-watching outing on Sunday, November 22.

More about landfills:
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Green Your Brain: What's the Surprising Number One Material Clogging Up Landfills?
Closing the Waste Management Loop: Creating Fuel From Landfill Gas
Tesco Diverts 100% of Its Waste From the Landfill... By Turning Meat into Electricity!
University of New Hampshire is First School in US to Run Off Landfill Gas
Green Eyes On: What Really Happens in a Landfill
Landfill Mining, the Next Boom Industry?
Pop Quiz: What's Filling Your Landfill?
Repurposed: From the Landfill to the Gallery
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