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OK, so this is the thing about which just about all Staten Islanders, no matter what their background or politics, have over the years been least proud. The Fresh Kills Landfill (or as we used to call it, “the dump,”) closed on March 22, 2001, certainly in part as a reward from then mayor Rudy Giuliani to Staten Island for its political support.
The dump opened up in 1948 and was supposed to be temporary. It grew to be by most accounts the largest garbage dump in the world.
I had the pleasure(?!) of growing up about two blocks away from one section of the dump. I can remember before it was there. It was a salt marsh that today we would call wetlands. There was a guy whose nickname was “Yonk” and his family owned horses and a barn, and he used to ride a wagon pulled by horses (I swear this is true!) and harvested the hay to feed his horses. This was in the late 1950s or early 1960s. When they started filling in the area with garbage, some were glad because they felt it would kill the horrible infestations of mosquitos we used to get during the summer. However, the mosquitos didn’t go away, and we had the horrible stench to go along with the skeeters. It was good for weather forcasting, though, as right before it rained it REALLY stunk!
Once they covered the garbage with a dirt layer, however, it became somewhat of an unofficial recreation area. Shallow pools of water quickly froze in the winter and we went ice skating there. Some guys went hunting, sometimes getting pheasants but more likely killing rats and sea gulls. Some went fishing, and some went swimming in the Fresh Kills creek. There was a dock with boats there that pre-dated the dump.
I never ate any fish or animals from the dump, (or went swimming there) but I did eat some vegetables that grew up there. They were pretty good (great fertilizer, I guess) but heaven only knows what kind of chemicals were in them. Well, no apparent effects up to this point!
Today, the West Shore Expressway (Route 440) cuts right through the dump. (It wasnt’t there when I was a kid.) It is amazing how quickly nature took over after the dump closed, along with some human help, to make it look like it does in the second picture above. It is actually quite pretty now. Really! The whole thing is going to be turned into parks. Hope it isn’t the usual city project and takes years and years. I’d like to go up there again before I throw off this mortal coil!