Freshkills North Park by Field Operations, once the world’s largest landfill, opens to the public in Staten Island

Green Galore

Freshkills North Park by Field Operations, once the world’s largest landfill, opens to the public in Staten Island

Pavilion at Freshkills North Park (Malcolm Pinckney)

In New York City’s oft-described “fifth borough” lies Freshkills, Staten Island: a 2,200-acre site just across the channel from New Jersey that was once the world’s largest landfill. On October 15, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to commemorate the cesspool’s transformation into Freshkills Park by Field Operations—an effort to increase vegetation in the borough.

The opening on October 15 celebrated the completion of the project’s first phase of North Park, a 21-acre site where New Yorkers can partake in recreational activities while surrounded by nature.  The opening was 22 years in the making: The masterplan to convert the 2,200-acre landfill into public space was completed in 2001, when the Freshkills Landfill was closed.

Site plan (Courtesy Field Operations)

North Park’s total acreage is 240 acres and construction on it is expected to finish in the coming years. “I vowed before taking office that under an Adams administration, Staten Island would no longer be the forgotten borough – and with today’s opening of the first section of Freshkills Park, we continue to deliver on that promise by providing Staten Islanders with another place to exercise, breathe fresh air, and be outside,” said Mayor Eric Adams.

“This is an exciting moment in the continually evolving life of Freshkills, marking significant new public access, ecological renewal, and social amenity,” added Field Operations Founding Partner and CEO James Corner. “Once people get into the heart of the site, they will be astounded by the extraordinary scale and character of the larger park, with its palpable sense of nature, extensive vistas, and opportunities to explore.”

Former landfill in Freshkills c.1970 (Chester Higgins Jr./Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

The design for Freshkills Park by Field Operations featured prominently in MoMA’s Architecture Now: New York, New Publics exhibition. It was also on display by The Garden Conservancy in programming for their Garden Futures Summit as an “example of the transformative potential of gardens and these rewilding efforts.”

Freshkills North Park (Malcolm Pinckney)

“What was once an eyesore is now becoming a world-class park that will serve the residents of this borough for generations to come, and that will, once fully complete, become the second largest park within the five boroughs. Today’s announcement is just another way that we are creating an environment that is better for our wildlife, better for New Yorkers, and better for our planet,” Adams continued.

Upon completion, Staten Islanders will have a total of 750 acres of new parkland at Freshkills. The park is owned by the City of New York under the Department of Sanitation. As the project moves ahead, specific parts of the site will be transferred to the Parks Department. Construction will take place in phases and will be finished in 2036.