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Fresh Ideas?
Have the winning entries in a recent competition provided a convincing vision for transforming a closed landfill?
By Rebecca Krinke

Fresh Kills Landfill is the largest landfill in the world. At 2,200 acres, it is almost three times the size of Central Park. The landfill served as a repository for New York City's trash for more than 50 years, although it was not full when it closed. Before the landfill was closed, Staten Island residents endured streams of trash trucks, raucous seagulls, odors, and trash swirling from the landfill. After years of citizen and political pressure—including a lawsuit about air pollution—state and local legislation closed Fresh Kills Landfill in March 2001. Shortly thereafter a two-stage international competition was announced to reinvent the landfill. Proposals were invited to "generate ideas and innovative designs to meet the needs of the city's communities and that respond to the natural and constructed nature of the site." Although the proposals have much in common with a public park, this was not specifically the request of the competition brief. Three finalists have recently been announced from the final six candidates. The winning teams are as follows: first place, Field Operations (James Corner/Stan Allen Landscape Architecture), Philadelphia and New York; second place, JMP Landscape and John McAslan + Partners, London; and third place, Rios Associates, Inc., Los Angeles. The city encouraged interdisciplinary teams, and all of the six finalists created diverse teams of experts, ranging from engineering, ecology, and transportation to media and art.

Serving on the jury were Laurie Olin, FASLA; urban designer Angela Danadjieva; architect Charles Gwathmey; Phil Shaw, an environmental consultant from London; and four officials from the city of New York, representing the departments of environmental protection, parks, planning, and state. Each of the three winning teams is now eligible to be retained by the city to prepare a draft end-use master plan. The three winners will be invited to submit a more detailed scope of work, and one of the teams will be selected this summer. An interagency group will select the designer, using the jury's ranking and the group's own evaluations of each team's qualifications as equal players in the selection process. Funding is in place to proceed with the first phase of construction.

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