Fresh Kills Landfill
(from Fresh Kills to the Kill van Kull, Arthur Kill to South Ave.)
The 12 square miles of Staten Island’s northwest corridor are historically known as “Northfield.” Residences are few. Human activity has been limited almost entirely to industry including, until closure in 2001, the world’s largest active waste disposal area, 3,000-acre Fresh Kills Landfill.
Nevertheless, an astounding assemblage of wildlife exists in the northwest corridor’s natural areas, particularly in the marshlands.
And now, the City of New York/Parks and Recreation is in a 30 year process of creating a park from the landfill. The park will be developed in phases with the protection of wildlife a consideration -
"Freshkills Park will also support richly diverse habitats for wildlife, birds and plant communities, as well as provide extraordinary natural settings for recreation." - from the Parks Department's website. Click here for more information.
History of the Northwest Corridor
Long, long ago Native Americans settled in the woodlands bordering these marshlands. In the 17th century, Dutch colonists settled nearby. Many place names are derived from the Dutch language, such as "Achter Cull" meaning "back creek,” now known as the Arthur Kill.
Historical accounts report colonial farmers harvesting the salt meadow hay from the high marshes, then barging it to Manhattan as feed for carriage horses. With the advent of the automobile, the value of this resource diminished and a demand for refined petroleum was created. The Arthur Kill and the Kill van Kull were dredged to open the way for ships serving the oil industry. Refineries sprang up on both Staten Island and New Jersey shores.
by D. Speiser
by D. Speiser
The health of the Arthur Kill declined with repeated oil spills and discharge of industrial waste and raw sewage into the waterways. Fish populations diminished, and oysters suffered from disease that was followed by shellfish harvesting prohibitions. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, rescued the Arthur Kill by establishing water quality standards and mandating reduction of pollutant discharges. Dissolved oxygen levels in the water began to climb, and many species of fish returned. Three dredge islands, Prall’s, Shooters, and Isle of Meadows, in the Kills became nesting sites of colonial wading birds, such as Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Glossy Ibis.
In 1985, a monitoring program, the Harbor Herons Project, was initiated by the NYC Audubon Society to track the birds’ breeding success. Annually researchers investigate ten islands in the Kills, East River, Jamaica Bay, and Lower New York Harbor. About one-quarter of the colonial wading bird population, from Massachusetts to Maryland, nest on these island refuges. In 1998, after being nominated by NYC Audubon, the Harbor Herons Complex was awarded Important Bird Area status in New York State by National Audubon, classifying these islands as essential for sustaining naturally occurring heron populations.
By the early 1990s the northwest corridor’s 5,000 acres of open land, was recognized as one of New York City’s ecological treasures, containing some of the City’s rarest botanical species and significant bird habitats. Within less than ten years, nearly 1,000 acres have been put under protective covenants by of City of New York/Parks and Recreation and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Historic ecotypes, such as tidal marsh, mature swamp forest, and oak barren/sandy hummock, are well represented.
Birding is Difficult
Unfortunately, this area is difficult to bird. Mariner's Marsh, Arlington Marsh, Bridge Creek, Saw Mill Creek Marsh, and Prall's Island are either not accessible or may be viewed by the sides of busy roads. There is, however, an elevated viewing platform for Goethals Pond. Directions are found on the Goethals Pond page.