Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Freshkills Tour (Activity 10)-Alina Gertsenshteyn

I attended the Freshkills tour last week (I was in the afternoon group). Our tour guide Doug told us that the word “kills” means body of water in Dutch. The area got that name because it used to be very beautiful and natural. Ironically, men had literally killed the area by turning it into a wasteland. According to an article posted on nymag titled “Walle-E Park” By Robert Sullivan there is about 150 million tons of waste, leaking chemicals, and “312 gallons of liquid dump excretions processed by the Sanitation Department every minute” in this area and the Sanitation Department is not planning on leaving for at least another thirty years. In addition, the National Grid buys gas from the city (produced in Freshkills) for $10 million annually. While this seems like a good thing, unfortunately there is another problem lurking called leachate which is not a healthy chemical for us. This is all a result of us messing up the land but now we are trying to design it to be a fun place full of activities (as Doug told us) such as horseback riding. There are different specialists advising on how restore Freshkill such as ecologist Steven Handel who is suggesting how nature plants should be planted to absorb sunlight and to attract birds to bring in seeds (Robert Sulivan). The first step is to plant grass and bring in soil which is very expensive to do but it is getting done. We saw a patch of its “work in progress” when we came out of the bus.
A memorable aspect of the tour was observing the birds. Doug told us to be on the look out for a red-tailed hawk and we were. We saw a bird nest on a tall pole when the mother or father was present and we were amazed by it because in our urbanized environment we do not usually witness something like this. We were informed that bird-watchers come to Freshkills and there are many species there. The other reading we were given prior to the tour is from the nytimes website -“Turning Trash Piles into a Bird Watching Paradise” by James Barron and it states that “it is not uncommon to have a large bird population on a former landfill site.” This point was definitely validated my by own observations.
My thoughts about Freshkills after the tour are a mixture of excitement for its future and concern over how we will deal with our trash from now on. Our environment is changing constantly and even though we are improving technology and designs we kill nature on the way there and even restoring it will never get it to be exactly the same. Dumping our waste to North Carolina does not seem to be a great fix because who is to say that NC is not as important as NYC. With that being said, I think this experience has opened my mind to be more environmentally conscious and to start recycling.

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