Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Garbage landfills are at the heart of debates over sustainable urban development. Landfills are the cheapest waste-disposal method, but have specific environmental problems and are a common target for citizen activism such as environmental justice and Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) protests. As a means of covering up the scars at recently closed landfills, it has been common for cities to redevelop landfills into parks. The ongoing redevelopment projects at New York City's Fresh Kills, Greater Toronto's Keele Valley, and Greater Tel Aviv's Hiriya landfills are uniquely ambitious and large-scale projects, because these three landfills were among the largest in the world at the time each of them closed around the turn of the twenty-first century. These three landfill-park redevelopments are positive projects, but there are more complexities involved than one would find discussed in booster rhetoric such as government press releases, local newspaper descriptions, and even museum exhibitions. The construction of Freshkills Park, North Maple Regional Park, and Ariel Sharon Park does little to address the ongoing waste-disposal policy concerns of New York, Toronto, and Tel Aviv; therefore, the redevelopments have more significance as “symbols” of a poor past policy being replaced by a “progressive” policy for a better future than as actual waste-disposal policies. Artists and landscape architects have created works based on the theme of parkland as a fresh start for these landfills, in gallery and museum exhibitions such as Hiriya in the Museum at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2000 and artwork created by acclaimed environmental artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles for Fresh Kills.
Transforming marginal sites (“brownfields”) into useable land for new development or parkland is a key strategy of cities across the globe. Three of the most fascinating present-day examples are the projects to redevelop three extremely large garbage landfills into parks: New York City’s Fresh Kills landfill (active 1948-2001), Greater Toronto’s Keele Valley landfill (active 1983-2002), and Greater Tel Aviv’s Hiriya landfill (active 1952-1998). For decades, these landfills had been the target of citizen activism and environmental protest; therefore, it seems ironic that these sites could be transformed into parks, and would be a popular subject for eco artists (environmentally aware artists) and museum exhibitions.
The mostly positive representations of the landfill-to-park redevelopments available through the media, government press releases, and museum exhibitions illustrate how municipal/state/national policymakers focus on the promise of future success as a way of deflecting criticism from past problems. The redevelopments are not so simple and positive as the booster rhetoric promoting the projects suggests. Analysis of the historical context of waste-disposal policy in New York City, Greater Toronto, and Greater Tel Aviv from the late-nineteenth century until the twenty-first century holds the key to understanding the real-world and symbolic importance of landfill park redevelopments: these three cities have struggled to implement an effective waste-disposal infrastructure.
publicabstract, Eco Art, New York City, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Urban History, Waste Disposal
Copyright 2015 Benjamin Alexander Lawson