Something bites the corner of my right eye – my skin warms and hardens as it rises into a perfect circle. The welt is maddeningly itchy. I am now a part of the ecosystem; someone’s food source. Buzzing and chirping envelop me. I mistake the trickling of sweat down my leg for another hungry intruder and slap it away.
I’m looking out into the distance. Across the river in the foreground, I can see trucks moving up and down, back and forth across a hillside. Laborers too small for my eyes are working over a patch of black plastic, tacking it down, adding more panels. They are spreading the layers that will close and protect decades of trash from disturbance.
Where am I? I ask myself this over and over again at Freshkills Park, continuously under construction for over ten years. The site was once entirely a vast wetland, and the waterways’ names hearken back to the original colonists of Manhattan – “kills,” deriving from the Dutch word for water channel or riverbed. Claimed as a temporary dump site, the concatenation of trash mounds expanded into the world’s largest landfill. For decades, local residents and politicians fought the landfill’s expansion. The odor of years of waste and chemical deodorizers pervaded the west side of Staten Island. I’ve heard it called “the dump borough” to this day. As the New York City Department of Sanitation expanded the site and created new mounds, it closed and capped others, creating a landscape of smooth humps and river valleys.
Now the plants and animals are moving in.
Read the full article on the Urban Omnibus website here.