If you’ve traveled to Staten Island (one of New York City’s five boroughs) prior 2008 you may have seen a spectacular site … and I don’t mean the famous ferry views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. No, it's the world’s largest landfill — standing at 2200 acres — that would have stopped you in your tracks.

The New York Times reports that the once gigantic dump is being transformed into a massive park, sure to be a bird-watcher’s paradise. Freshkills Park, as it is called, will be a park nearly three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park. The New York City Parks Department borrowed the old name of the landfill, Fresh Kills landfill, and fused the two words together.

“Every other month for the last year, the parks department has led birders through Freshkills. This explains why Mr. Wollney, a public programs associate from the Staten Island Museum, was climbing a 150-foot mountain on Sunday morning, trailed by more than 20 others who had signed up for the tour.”

The most astonishing part of the park is that the 150-foot mountain the bird-watchers are climbing remains a 150-foot pile of garbage. The trash heap has been sealed with a special plastic membrane and covered with a unique type of grass. This MSNBC video explains a little bit more about the project:

What’s even more interesting is the enormous bird population present in Freshkills Park. “It’s actually not uncommon to have a large bird population on a former landfill site,” said Raj Kottamasu, a parks department manager. Landfills are apparently hot spots for bird-watching aficionados.

Unfortunately, Freshkills Park isn’t what Fresh Kills landfill once was to bird-watchers. “There used to be more birds when it was a dump,” said Susan Fowler, an office administrator, told The New York Times. Strange, isn’t it? You would think that the transformation into a massive park and wetlands would bring more birds to the area.

What the park conversion actually did was successfully eradicate the bird’s food source. Now Freshkills park is a much more pleasant place for Staten Island residents — and still a great bird-watching spot — but at least for the moment it isn’t the bird haven it once was.

Birds love trash heaps more than parks?
Turning the world's largest landfill on Staten Island into a park is actually crippling the bird population.