View current page
...more recent posts
Letís start at the end of one story, the story of the dump, with the view from way up on top of it.
Letís start at the peak of what was once a steaming, stinking, seagull-infested mountain of trash, a peak that is now green, or greenish, or maybe more like a green-hued brown, the tall grasses having been recently mown by the sanitation workers still operating at Fresh Kills, on the western shore of Staten Island. Today the sun dries the once slime-covered slopes, as a few hawks circle in big, slow swoops and a jet makes a lazy approach to Newark, just across the Arthur Kill. The sky, when viewed from atop a twenty-story heap of slowly decomposing garbageóthe so-called South Mound, a Tribeca-size drumlin surrounded by other trash mounds, some as long as a mileóis the kind of big blue that you expect to see somewhere else, like the middle of Missouri. Itís a great wide-open bowl, fringed with green hills (some real, some garbage-filled) that are some of the highest points on the Atlantic seaboard south of Maine. Meanwhile, at your feet, hook-shaped white plastic tubes vent methane, the gas that builds up naturally in a landfill, a by-product of refuse being slowly digested by underground bacteria. The hissing of landfill gas is soft and gentle, like the sound of a far-off mountain stream or the stove left on in your apartment.
But as you look a little longer, itís definitely not a Missouri view, and the unmistakable landmarks come into focus: a tower on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a span of the Outerbridge Crossing, and, on Coney Island, the very top of the parachute jump. In the foreground, trucks enter the landfill, climbing the mounds and dumping clean soil over not-so-clean soil. Itís all part of a radical plan to turn Fresh Kills landfill into Fresh Kills Park, with mountain bikers and kayakers and ballplayers sharing 2,315 acres of open space with restored maritime forests, with chestnut trees dotting dry prairies, with new or revived sweet-gum swamps, maybe a fox scooting through persimmon copses or a deer through a new birch thicket.