Fresh Kills is a section of Staten Island in New York which was used as a landfill between 1948 and 2001. The site has become famous, primarily due to its sheer size; Fresh Kills is around three times the size of Central Park, and it can be readily identified in satellite images of Staten Island. Fresh Kills is also the site of an ambitious environmental remediation project, which aims to turn the location from a garbage heap into a sprawling public park with numerous environmentally friendly features.
All told, Fresh Kills covers around 220 acres (890 hectares) on the western side of Staten Island. It is located on the Fresh Kills estuary, which explains the name; “kill” is a Dutch word meaning “stream” or “river.” The site was opened in 1948 as a landfill, and originally intended to be temporary. By 2001, 20 barges were traveling to Fresh Kills daily with New Yorkers' garbage, and the site was becoming an environmental issue.
Towering piles of garbage at Fresh Kills sometimes loomed higher than some New York landmarks, and the site was so massive that people were comparing it to major archaeological landmarks, like the Great Wall of China. In March of 2001, Fresh Kills was closed, and the city began seeking out an alternative location for its garbage, opening the Staten Island Transfer Station on the site to process garbage for shipping off site.
In September 2001, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan presented a major problem to the city of New York: a huge pile of debris which had to be gotten rid of quickly, yet respectfully. The city realized that the cost of shipping debris from the site to a distant location would be formidable, so it reopened Fresh Kills specifically for the purpose of interning the World Trade Center debris. The site also hosted a mobile morgue, where anthropologists sifted through the tons of debris to search for human remains, with the goal of identifying as many victims as possible.
In 2003, the City of New York embarked on a plan to transform Fresh Kills, turning it into a public park with bridle paths, recreation areas, wind farms, and numerous native plant and animal species. As of 2008, the project was ongoing, and the site is closed to the public, although people can arrange special tours of Fresh Kills to learn more about the proposed park. If successful, the plan will certainly transform the face of Staten Island, and undoubtedly puzzle future archaeologists.