STATEN ISLAND — The city on Monday awarded a $22.9 million contract to a construction firm to finally begin work on the first major section of public park inside the former Fresh Kills Landfill.
Lomma Construction Corp. will build the first, 21-acre phase of Freshkill Park's North Park which will include a birdwatching observation tower and seven-acre seed farm, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department said Tuesday.
The park is expected to open in 2020 and will be the first section of Freshkills inside the former landfill's boundaries to be open to the public year-round, the spokeswoman said.
Sections of the park are opened up for a day several times a year as part of "Discovery Day" events and the city has already completed two outside project connected to the park: the Richmond Avenue greenway and one entrance to North Park, Schmul Park.
The plans for North Park — one of the most sheltered areas of Freshkills — calls for it to mainly be a natural area that connects Schmul Park to the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, the Parks Department said.
The work also includes construction of a large picnic lawn, a seed farm, a composting comfort station, a waterfront overlook deck, a bicycle repair station, a forested plateau, multi-use pathways and a 67-space parking lot for visitors, the spokeswoman said.
(Department of Parks and Recreation)
Fresh Kills Landfill was one of the world's largest garbage dumps until it was closed by the city in 2001. It reopened briefly to sort items removed from the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attack, but by 2003, the city started a planning committee to transform it into a 2,200-acre park, which would be larger than Central Park.
Since the city started adding grassland to restore the land, many wetland and water-based birds such as ospreys, egrets and herring have returned to the area.
Rarer grassland birds have also made home in the spot and it now boasts the largest colony of the threatened grasshopper sparrow in the state.
North Park still has other sections the city will need to work on before it can fully open to the public. The Parks Department expects the entire Freshkills to be opened by 2036.