Richard Sullivan checks in at Freshkills Park, formerly the site of New York’s Fresh Kills landfill.
While the following graf is somewhat alarming,
Freshkills is possibly the least likely poster child for urban ecological restoration in the world, and it is radical not just for the way it works — by encouraging flora and fauna do as they please — but for its sheer size. It is almost unbelievable that New York City would set aside a parcel of land as big as Lower Manhattan south of 23rd Street — and just let it go to seed.
Sullivan reports that biodiversity is making progress:
Back in 2015, I was teaching a science seminar at CUNY’s Macaulay College when I visited Freshkills along with hundreds of sophomores, all of us part of a bioblitz, an invasion of citizen scientists who in this case documented Freshkills’ growing list of flora and fauna: bats skittering past the methane recovery stations, herons wading in the murky trash-bottomed tidal streams. My first trip in 2001 was marked by sightings of mostly gulls; that weekend, our group reported 314 species in North Park’s 233 acres. Our bioblitz team was said to be the first to spot a blackjack oak tree on Staten Island, formerly a resident exclusively of the south, now showing up in New York as New York warms.
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Meanwhile, newly planted grasses in Freshkills have attracted a steady population of birds, including the largest colony of grasshopper sparrows in New York State.
Nevertheless, when Freshkills opens to the public,
I’ll also think of the new Amazon fulfillment center nearby that’s standing on what could have been restored wetlands, another sad trade-off.