worlds largest garbage pile
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 23, 2024 ·  2 min read

World’s Largest Garbage Dump Turned Into A Green Oasis of Native Grasses That Also Powers Homes

In just a few months, the residents of Staten Island will have a new park to visit instead of a landfill wafting undesirable smells into their backyards. Fresh Kills Landfill has been transformed into a park three times the size of central park, and the results are stunning.

Fresh Kills Landfill Greenspace

Fresh Kills Landfill was known as the world’s largest dump and was home to all of New York City’s trash. The place was infamous for having mounds of garbage that reached up to 20 stories in height. (1)

The dump was closed in 2001, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg promising to turn the 150 million tons of trash into a 2,200-acre green space for residents to enjoy. Nearly 20 years later, it is almost complete. (1)

From Fresh Kills Landfill to Fresh Kills Park

The first step in turning a garbage dump into a usable natural space is allowing the sanitation department to take control of the pollution. This happened once the dump was officially closed. (1)

The next step is the design. The Department of City Planning hosted an international design competition for firms to bid on who would have the opportunity to take on the project. (1) The winners were James Corner Field Operations, who are based out of New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Shenzhen, China. (2)

First, the mounds of garbage in the dump were covered with plastic sheets. From there, red, iron-rich soil was brought in to cover those up. (1)

Next, methane extraction pipes were installed to channel the gas produced in the mounds into homes on Staten Island as a power source for stoves and heating. (1)

Rainwater is an issue in dumps, so concrete troughs were built to direct the water away from the trash hills. (1) They restored a local park, which included (1):

  • A baseball diamond
  • Handball courts
  • Playgrounds

Native grasses were brought in and planted around the four capped and now grass-covered garbage hills. In 2012, goats were brought in to graze and aid in the restoration process. (1)

A Picturesque Park

The grassy mounds are now divided by natural springs and creeks. Trails wind their way through the park with plenty of trees that provided homes to a variety of different species of birds. (1)

Of course, an operation of this size takes time and a lot of human-power. Rather than waiting until the whole park is ready, Fresh Kills Park will open in stages. The first 21 acres in the North Park section are set to open next spring, with the rest of the park to open in sections over the next 15 years. (1)


There will be plenty for visitors to do when visiting Fresh Kills Park. These activities include (3):

  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Public art spaces
  • Play
  • Other social and cultural event spaces

The goal is not just to provide more outdoor space for the public, but also to educate people on wetlands and grasslands, biodiversity, and ecological restoration. (3)

Spaces in the park that are already open to enjoy are:

For more information on Fresh Kills Park, visit their website.