2020/2021 Annual Report

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and The Freshkills Park Alliance ANNUAL REPORT


From Eloise Hirsh, Freshkills Park Alliance President Dear Freshkills Parks Supporters and Enthusiasts: 2020 and 2021 were difficult times for New Yorkers and people everywhere, and even as I write this, it seems it is not over yet. We have been thankful to have Freshkills Park as a respite and even more thankful when we could bring visitors on in-person kayak tours, nature walks, education programs and photography tours. The Park landscape is restorative, especially this time of year. There were some silver linings as our programming went virtual in Spring 2020. We were able to master Zoom and significantly extend our geographic reach, holding virtual classes for students from New York to California and all the way to Australia. While overall our total visitorship was down from 2019, we almost doubled the number of participants in our education programs. Discovery Day became Discovery Week with a different programmatic theme on each day of the week. In 2020, we also conceived of and developed a new grasslands curriculum so that students in the Northeast could learn about the grasslands in their back yards. Through 2020 and 2021, we were able to continue bird monitoring and confirmed the grassland bird population is thriving. We have seen Savannah Sparrows and Sedge Wrens- Sedge Wrens have not been seen since in this area since 1943. Our volunteers were fantastic, first planting and then maintaining our first biodiversity garden in Schmul Park. The Park got some great press when photographs taken by Jade Doskow were featured in a New York Times spread in August 2020. Several of our social media posts went viral- including one about wetlands that reached over 23,000 people after being picked up by publications in Brazil and Italy! We were fortunate to receive significant support from the Staten Island Foundation and the NYC Green Relief and Recovery Fund. These funders supported our education program and our new outreach and community engagement program. And thank you to all the individuals, foundations and organizations that have continued to support the work of the Freshkills Park Alliance. This has meant so much to us, reminding us that even though we could not all be together, you were supporting this great park as it grows. We are looking forward to the summer of 2022 and welcoming visitors back to the Park; please check out the calendar of events on our website for programs that might interest you. In the meantime, please enjoy this recap of our work in 2020 and 2021.

2020/2021 Annual Report

In 2020, Freshkills Park researchers documented a new breeding grassland bird species on site, the Sedge Wren. This state-threatened species last bred on Staten Island in 1943, and this year two pairs fledged young at the Park!

Photo: Shannon Curley

2020/2021 Annual Report

Capital Projects North Park Phase One

South Park

NYC Parks and its contractors made significant progress on North Park Phase 1 in 2020 and 2021. This work was completed despite a hiatus imposed by the pandemic as well as subsequent delays in procuring materials. Construction has significantly transformed the landscape as almost 200,000 cubic yards of fill and topsoil were placed on site. Uneven and rocky ground covered with phragmites has been replaced by gentle slopes and gravel packed pathways that will take visitors on a journey through picnic areas and seed farms to the Main Creek waterfront. The waterfront views encompass Main Creek shorelines and birdlife as well as views of East Mound and the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge.

The design phase for the South Park Anchor Park is nearing 100% completion, a major milestone for the project. The final design for the 35.2-acre Anchor Park includes two multi-purpose fields, a children’s play area, an entry plaza and comfort station with a green roof, parking, walking paths, a connection to the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields, and an entrance road off Arthur Kill Road. The design details for the park have required a significant amount of coordination with the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) who currently has jurisdiction of the entire property and will retain jurisdiction of the roadway entrance.

Much of the landscaping was completed during the final months of 2021, including the planting of a small forest of native evergreens and deciduous trees. The eastern slopes of the park, facing the creeks, were planted with a tidal scrub shrub mix of groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia), northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) and beach plum (Prunus maritima) among other tidal wetland species.

We watched with curiosity and wonder as the North Park signature features were erected in the last half of 2021. It was incredible to see the rendering of the bird tower and the wetland overlook deck become a reality and to walk out on the overlook deck for the first time and see the spectacular views of Main Creek. The comfort station shell was also installed and the foundations for the PV structure and the bike station were poured. The parking lot curbs and lighting were finished and the excavation and filling, along with installation of the stormwater infrastructure for the new North Park entry/exit road, was completed. Following construction completion in Spring 2022, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation must complete its certification of the site before it can be opened to the public.

DPR has also worked with multiple city agencies on different aspects of the projects, including bridge and street lighting design with DOT, water connections and equipment with DEP, and fire protection with FDNY. DPR is currently scheduled to complete design and begin the procurement process in December 2022.

Owl Hollow Comfort Station Design work on the Owl Hollow Comfort Station was completed in 2021, and it is now in procurement. This long-awaited amenity will provide restroom facilities, a drinking fountain and bottle filler, and a small maintenance and operations facility. The building has been designed to meet the latest energy efficiency standards and includes a green roof. The project will also include a new, more centrally located driveway to facilitate drop offs to the soccer fields and new landscaping including a rain garden.

Schmul Park Playground In 2021, former Borough President Oddo provided funding to reconstruct a portion of the playground at Schmul Park. A community meeting was held to discuss the scope for the project and design was initiated in September 2021. Design is expected to be complete in the Fall of 2022. 2020/2021 Annual Report

North Park Phase One Construction. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: New evergreen and deciduous trees, pedestrian pathway with view of Main Creek; metal workers assembling wetland overlook supports, asphalt paving on path to Schmul Park, wetland observation deck in construction.

2020/2021 Annual Report

Scientific Research

Freshkills Park provides hundreds of acres of ecological habitat for researching and collecting information related to a range of urban environmental issues. Ongoing research projects continue to inform responsible and innovative strategies for sustainability and ecological restoration.

Grassland Birds Birds Grassland birds have rapidly declined throughout North America and have experienced some of the steepest population declines of any group of birds in the United States. Since its transformation into an urban greenspace, Freshkills Park has become the home of many important species of grassland birds, including Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Eastern Meadowlarks. Sedge Wrens (Cistothorus platensis) nested for the first time in the Park’s history in 2020, a particularly exciting discovery. Three separate nest locations were found on East Mound, and on September 16th, 2020, the first fledgling was seen. Sedge Wrens returned to breed at Freshkills Park in 2021, with eight pairs of birds present on East Mound. Sedge Wrens are listed as threatened species in New York State. They are a rare visitor to New York City, where they last nested in 1960 in the vicinity of John F. Kennedy International Airport. Historically, they were also present on Staten Island, where they last nested in 1943 in the marshes at Oakwood Beach.

2020 and 2021 were successful years for grassland bird research at Freshkills Park. Other rapidly declining, highly specialized species such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks were also confirmed as breeding at the Park. In 2021, Freshkills Park hosted 82 breeding pairs of Grasshopper Sparrows, the highest recorded number since their arrival in 2015. The establishment of these grassland birds highlights the importance of greenspaces like Freshkills Park in urban areas and their importance to species conservation.

Arthropod Surveys Arthropods (Phylum Arthropoda, which includes insects and spiders), are important in ecosystem processes and as indicators of habitat health. Many species are significant pollinators, maintain soil integrity and are a primary food source for many species of birds and mammals.

In 2021, researchers conducted surveys to establish an inventory of species that occur at Freshkills Park and to document the differences between arthropod communities on North Mound and East Mound. These two mounds have been shown to host very different avian communities, and the question was whether those different communities were a function of the available food. Preliminary results indicate that arthropod families are different between East and North Mounds and the research will continue. 2020/2021 Annual Report

Grasshopper Sparrows, 2015- 2021

Number of Pairs

80 60 40 20




Savannah Sparrows, 2015- 2021

Number of Pairs

250 200 150 100 50 2016



Science & Research. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Grasshopper Sparrow Populations, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow Populations, Savannah Sparrow, Familiar Bluet, Monarch Butterfly, Bumblebee

2020/2021 Annual Report


Freshkills Park is an expansive space with a history that informs its present complex transformation. Through art, both partnering with artists and engaging the public in creative experiences, Freshkills Park provides many lenses through which to connect to the park’s past, present, and future and to illuminate the ways the public is and can be a part of this ambitious project.

Jade Doskow: Freshkills Park Photographer-in-Residence Jade Doskow, the Freshkills Park Photographer-inResidence, uses her photography to illuminate the unusual beauty of the park as it transforms both seasonally and via human-made intervention. Starting in 2018, Doskow has made regular visits to the Park to create a comprehensive record of this massive New York City infrastructure project using a 19th-century style large format camera. Her work has been featured in New York Times articles and a solo exhibition at Tracey Morgan Gallery in North Carolina. “Freshkills is a dream environment to work in, as an artist and photographer. Photography is about light, and the study of landscape is about light, and the light out over the mounds is constantly shifting and transforming the site. ” says Doskow.

Follow Freshkills Park and Jade Doskow on Instagram (@j_doskow) for updates. You can also find information on her website www.jadedoskowphotography.com

Fastnet: Plein-air Fastnet is a 20-foot shipping container that artist James Powers outfitted as a mobile gallery and drawing studio. In most years, we host landscape drawing programs out of the container on site, with students practicing observation of the Freshkills Park landscape while learning charcoal sketching techniques. Although we were unable to host inperson drawing programs in 2021, we did bring landscape drawing into people's homes as part of Virtual Discovery Day. We are also in the process of expanding this program with community partners to connect to a wider array of environments across Staten Island through off-site workshops. View the lesson online: https://freshkillspark.org/os-art/fastnet-plein-air

Field R/D: re:Generation At the intersection of art and research is Field R/D, a residency program organized by Dylan Gauthier and Mariel Villeré that seeks to uncover relationships between humans and our environment through public art within Freshkills Park. Artists working in the performing arts, written word, architecture, pedagogy, and multimedia have collaborated to create a virtual culminating exhibition and archive of their work exploring the park as a site of public memory, environmental justice, urbanism, ecology, and public architecture at www.freshkillspark.art

2020/2021 Annual Report

Art. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Photographer-In-Residence Jade Doskow on North Mound, Doskow's work featured in New York Times, Doskow's photograph of waste container, Doskow reflecting on her next shot, Doskow's Large format camera on East Mound

2020/2021 Annual Report


The Alliance offers classroom resources and field trips that take advantage of the landfill-to-park project as a living classroom. Our education program teaches a diverse urban audience unforgettable lessons about personal responsibility for the wastes we produce, nature’s capacity for resilience, and the potential for a more sustainable future. Students learn about landfill infrastructure, participate in wildlife observation, and reflect on their own ability to reduce waste. In 2020-21, Freshkills Park expanded our popular virtual education program, published a new curriculum about grassland ecosystems in the Northeast, and provided service learning opportunities for schools.

Virtual Field Trips Our popular virtual education programs have reached over 3,000 students in schools across New York City and around the world. We now offer dozens of different trip options for K-12 students, including “Be a Park Planner!” “Wonderful Wetlands” “Where Does My Trash Go?” and “Grassland Insects”. “Thank you so much for a simply fantastic virtual tour. A feat that is hard to pull off! The kids were so engaged and really learned so much more about the landfill to park transformation. I really appreciate how thoughtful you were in tailoring the program to the needs of the group.” -Middle School Teacher

Grassland Curriculum

Service Learning

Freshkills Park contains over 1,000 acres of grassland habitat, the largest grassland ecosystem in New York State. However, when students learn about grasslands in school, they typically learn about the Great Plains and the Savannah. With the new Grasslands Curriculum for K-8 students, we’re connecting NYC students with nature in their own city and introducing them to the unique Freshkills Park grasslands right in their own backyard. The curriculum includes standard-aligned lessons, hands-on activities, and multimedia resources to make grasslands come alive for students.

Students don’t just learn when visiting Freshkills Park, they actively participate in research and park development. In 2021, the Alliance piloted new service learning experiences for schools. Visiting groups collected data about arthropods living in Freshkills Park, contributing to our ongoing grassland comparison studies. Other classes pitched in with wetland clean-ups, planting native species, and other volunteer projects to support the park. By pairing classroom learning with hands-on action, Freshkills Park is truly a living classroom for students. 2020/2021 Annual Report

Education. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Students working on observational drawings of plants, children participating in a Park Planning workshop, Virtual field trip to Freshkills Park via Zoom, Freshkills Park educators and community members at the Park.

2020/2021 Annual Report

Volunteer + Public Programming

Volunteer Program

Kayaking & Recreation

In response to the pandemic, the Freshkills Park Alliance realized the need for outdoor volunteer opportunities and developed a more robust volunteer program. Volunteer projects started in Fall 2020 with several beautification events at Schmul Park, one of which included planting a pollinator garden, as well as clean up events at our Visitor Center and at our Studio + Gallery at 2240 Richmond Avenue. Volunteer events are a great way to give back, earn service credits and learn about the incredible ecological transformation occurring at Freshkills Park. By maintaining green spaces, assisting with events, and spreading the enthusiasm, volunteers help make visiting Freshkills Park more welcoming for the community and local wildlife.

Our popular kayak tours are offered from MayOctober. This year, visitors gave back to the park with a quick wetland clean-up before getting on the water. Tour highlights include seeing Osprey nests and the North Park Phase 1 construction site. We also partnered with Transportation Alternatives to welcome 800 bikers on the Tour de Staten Island, many of whom biked the almost four-mile loop around East Park.

Learn more about our pollinator garden on our website: www.freshkillspark.org/pollinatorgarden

New Partnerships The Freshkills Park Alliance is proud to partner with the New York Community League (NYCL), a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, dedicated to providing assistance to international students and immigrant families, especially the underrepresented Chinesespeaking communities in Staten Island. The Alliance and NYCL partnered to offer monthly family nature walks with live Mandarin translation. During nature walks, families used binoculars, insect nets, and field guides to meet the amazing flora and fauna living in the grasslands and wetlands.

Lectures Hundreds of people were introduced to the history, design, and resurgence of Freshkills Park through virtual programs and lectures. The Alliance partnered with dozens of organizations, including Untapped New York, Open House New York, New York Adventure Club, and the Nature of Cities Conference to offer live, interactive virtual lectures on Freshkills Park.

Virtual Resources In 2020, Discovery Day went virtual! During the week, visitors learned more about the history, wildlife, recreation, education, and art at the park through virtual experiences. Those virtual resources are preserved on the Freshkills Park website to continue introducing new visitors, from near and far to Freshkills Park. Highlights include a virtual kayak tour, a guided tour of the leachate treatment plant and a sneak peak into the North Park Phase 1 construction site. 2020/2021 Annual Report

Volunteer & Public Programming. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Volunteers in front of the Freshkills Studio + Gallery, Volunteers planting a pollinator garden at Schmul Park, Park visitors learning about native grasses, Kayakers on tour along Main Creek

2020/2021 Annual Report

Thank you to our partners, donors and sponsors Government Partners and Contributing Agencies The New York State Department of State, Office of Coastal, Local Government & Community Sustainability has provided funding to support the Freshkills Park project under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. National Park Service NYC Department of Sanitation NYC Department of City Planning NYC Department of Transportation NYC Department of Environmental Protection NYC Department of Health NYC Department of Education NYC Department of Design and Construction NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Mayor’s Office of Sustainability NYS Department of Environmental Conservation NYS Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources NYS Department of Transportation NYS Department of Health NYS Parks

Cultural & Community Partners AIANY/ Center for Architecture Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) Classic Harbor Line CSI Verrazano Honors College DSNY Oral History Archive Global Kids Greenbelt Conservancy Historic Richmond Town Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy JCC Staten Island La Colmena Make Music New York Municipal Arts Society Newhouse Center NYC Audubon Society New York Public Library New York Community League New York Adventure Club On Your Mark Open House New York (OHNY) Protectors of Pine Oaks Woods Queens Museum Snug Harbor Sanitation Foundation Staten Island Arts Staten Island Children's Museum Staten Island MakerSpace Staten Island Mall Staten Island Museum

Travis Civic Association The Adult School Untapped Cities United Activities Unlimited Urban Omnibus Venture House Waterfront Alliance

Donors + Sponsors

Project Consultants & Engineers

The Achelis & Bodman Foundation Bass Prop Shops + Cabela's Outdoor Fund Bloomberg Philanthropies City Parks Foundation NYC Green Relief + Recovery Fund College of Staten Island Con Edison Dorr Foundation Frances R Dewing Foundation Fund for the City of New York Furthermore Program/ JM Kaplan Fund Grupposo Foundation Mertz Gilmore Foundation Mid Island Rotary The National Grid Foundation NEA Art Works The New York Community Trust NYC DOT Urban Art Program Patagonia Public Lands Every Day/ NEEF/ Toyota Richmond County Savings Foundation Sara K deCoizart Foundation The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation: Art and Social Justice Staten Island Foundation Stop & Stor Target

AKRF Arcadis ARUP BioHabitats, Inc. BKSK Architects DACK Daniel Frankfurt (HDR, Inc.) Faithful + Gould Geosyntec/Beech and Bonaparte Green Shield Ecology (GSE) HAKS Integral James Corner Field Operations Julep Consulting Langan Philip Habib and Associates Partner and Partners Project Projects Rogers Surveying Sanna & Loccisano Related City Initiatives Sage & Coombe Architects Anchor Parks Starr Whitehouse Landscape Material for the Arts Architects and Planners MillionTreesNYC NYC Service Urban Arborists

Academic + Research Partners Barnard + Columbia Architecture Bloomfield College City College of New York City University of New York College of Staten Island Columbia University GSAPP Cornell University: AAP Macaulay Honors College NJ Institute of Technology New York Harbor School NYU Wagner Parsons School of Design SVA Interactive Design College of Staten Island Hunter College Interstate Environmental Commission New Jersey City University NY/NJ Baykeeper New York University Rutgers University Saint John’s University USDA Forest Service

NYC Nature Goals 2050 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan OneNYC 2050 Zero Waste Challenge 0x30

Recreation Partners Complete Race Solutions New York Road Runners Staten Island Athletic Club Staten Island Bicycling Association Transportation Alternatives

In Kind Donations Berkeley Carroll School FoxPro Home Depot Hilton Garden Inn NYC Tutoring Panera Bread Starbucks Showplace Entertainment Trader Joe's

2020/2021 Annual Report

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Land bridge on South Mound in Summer, Land bridge on South Mound in Fall, East Mound in Winter, Rainbow over the Confluence in Summer, Sunset on North Mound in Spring.

2020/2021 Annual Report

Our Commitment to Equity The Freshkills Park Alliance is committed to making Freshkills Park accessible and welcoming to all people and honoring the values of environmental advocacy, inclusion, physical and cultural accessibility of the space, diversity and collaboration. In addition to our personal commitment to sustainability and ecological transformation, these values will continue to be reflected in our development, programming, and outreach work, as well as in our staff, board and partners.

Join us! Visit open and closed sections of the landfill-to-park project. Check the website calendar for programs and events of all kinds. www.freshkillspark.org/calendar Donate to sustain the park project and expand opportunities to visit. www.freshkillspark.org/donate Return to your favorite program and explore new ways of learning about this landscape. Volunteer at an event or with your colleagues. For more information email: volunteer@freshkillspark.org Subscribe to our e-newsletter at www.freshkillspark.org/newsletter Follow and tag @freshkillspark

and The Freshkills Park Alliance

Commissioner Sue Donoghue Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are © The City of New York and © Freshkills Park 2020/2021 Annual Report