Urban parks are valued by residents and tourists alike as they are a pleasant juxtaposition from the intensity of the surrounding city. But parks haven’t necessarily been considered in the same economic or political terms as other parts of the city. In recent years, the potential of urban landscapes to contribute to the economic health and vibrancy of the city has become more apparent to the political elite in the higher profile parks such as New York City’s High Line Project. However, some aspects of the political role that urban parks play still have not been recognised. Contrary to the economic value that has been attributed to some other high profile parks in New York City, the cost of Freshkills Park is enormous and this suggests that there are other political narratives associated with the closure of the landfill and the creation of the Park. That is, the Park offers some form of political value to the New York City administration.
This paper situates the history of Freshkills Park in recent political and environmental events that have impacted New York City. The closure of the Fresh Kills landfill and associated waste management problems for the city, the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the 2012 Superstorm Sandy, are events that reveal the political positioning of Freshkills Park. Not only does this raise the profile of the Park in the minds of the residents of New York City, it also increases the Park’s relevance to the political elite by revealing some of the issues that are impacting the welfare of the city. By examining the relationship between these events and conception of the Park, this paper considers the value of Freshkills Park as a political object in the city, and thereby, offers a different conception of the role and value of landscape in a modern city.