Gallery: EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Inhabitat Tours the Future Freshkills Park

© Leonel Lima Ponce for Inhabitat
Hints of returning animal life are seen near North Mound. Prior to our ascent, a flock of geese and an osprey nest were spotted, and butterflies and dragonflies fluttered at the mound's peak; there are even reports of recent bald eagle sightings!

According to the Master Plan, 45 percent of future park area consists of garbage/landfill mounds. The North and South mounds are currently capped to prevent leaking of gases and toxic leachate from decomposing garbage. Capping of the East should be finished by the end of the year, when the process will begin at the Western mound. Our tour started on the South Mound, which overlooks nearby neighborhoods, all five bridges connecting to Staten Island, and the skylines of Manhattan, Jersey City, and Coney Island in the distance.

When complete, the South Park will spread over 425 acres with a  maximum elevation of 140 feet, and be home to active recreation areas such as soccer fields, low impact mountain biking routes, and an equestrian course, in addition to the reinstatement of local habitats. For now, vegetation composed of upland grass fields grows along the slopes of the hill, showing healthy regrowth of native species.

Our next stop, North Mound, provides a panoramic view of the New York City skyline, framed by a foreground of grassy knolls, meandering creeks and wetlands, and expansive skies. The second mound to be capped, this location has been home to some experiments to determine the viability of renewable energy sources on site. An anemometer recently compiled wind data from atop the hill, determining ideal wind conditions to harness wind power. However, soil conditions do not permit the installation of large turbines, so designers and advocates are exploring other options.

North Mound will host less active recreational activities than its Southern counterpart, with programs for fishing, bird-watching, hiking, and other outdoor activities in the works. The 233 acre section will top out at 150 feet of elevation, explaining the expansive views experienced on tour. With such and emphasis on biodiversity and wildlife activities, it is no coincidence that we encountered hints of animal life on and around this hill. Prior to our ascent, a flock of geese and an osprey nest were spotted, and butterflies and dragonflies fluttered at the mound’s peak; there are even reports of recent bald eagle sightings!

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