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The Wild Comeback Of New York's Legendary Landfill

At Freshkills Park, where the city dumped 150 million tons of its garbage, human desires and nature’s needs are feeling their way to a new harmony.
A rendering of a future bird-watching platform in Freshkills Park.
A rendering of a future bird-watching platform in Freshkills Park. James Corner Field Operations

This post is part of a CityLab series on wastelands, and what we squander, discard, and fritter away.

Twenty minutes past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Staten Island, the smell would hit. Cait Field, who grew up nearby on Long Island, remembers this from childhood car trips—how her parents would roll up the windows and flip the AC’s recirculate button while acres upon acres of fetid household garbage scrolled past. The scent alone signaled that the Fresh Kills landfill was where things went to rot, not live—except for thousands of feasting seagulls.