Freshkills Park

Phragmites Invasion

Date: July 17th, 2014

The NYC Parks Department has begun converting the Freshkills Landfill into a park. As a part of this conversion, the landfill is being covered with residential grade soil and native plant species are being reintroduced into the park. There is, however, an intruder! An invasive plant species arriving from Europe, called phragmites, has begun to take hold in the park and threatens to create a monoculture, preventing attempts to restore the park to its natural state.

As a research expedition, a small group traveled to the park to map where phragmites is invading. Using the Public Lab's balloon mapping technique, we created two high resolution maps to identify the invasive species from above. Below are two maps created from our expedition.

Though this outing was just a test, we were able to successfully identify phragmites from the air. We are now planning to map the entire park during the 2014 Sneak Peak with multiple balloons and lots of people. Stay tuned for updates about the event.

Balloon Photography
at Freshkills Park

By: Nicholas Johnson

Freshkills Park, formerly a landfill, is currently being transformed into one of New York City’s largest and most spectacular parks. The prairie-like environment allows visitors the opportunity to hike, canoe, ride bikes and even birdwatch. Though the park is only open to the public once a year, there has been a tremendous interest from citizen scientists in understanding the environmental status of the area. This has sparked a series of citizen led balloon mapping expeditions which have resulted in amazing aerial photography as well as a unique high resolution map of the park.

These expeditions are an excellent opportunity for citizens to participate in urban environmental science and are a part of a larger citizen initiative to better understand urban waste infrastructure.

View photos on Flickr.