During Hurricane Sandy, the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island absorbed a critical part of the storm surge. Its hills and waterways spared nearby neighborhoods like Travis, Bulls Head, New Springville and Arden Heights much worse flooding. The 2,200-acre site, which closed a decade ago and is being turned into a park, was also temporarily reopened as a transfer station, helping officials and relief agencies clear debris from around the city.
If many New Yorkers, Staten Islanders included, still can’t help thinking of the place as a mountain range of stinking trash, that’s understandable. But since its closing, Fresh Kills has become a model for landfill reclamation around the world, having been transformed into a vast green space full of wildlife. Now it is also demonstrating the role of wetland buffers in battling rising waters.
Maybe this will help push officials to ready what is known as Freshkills Park for visitors. James Corner, the landscape architect who helped design the High Line and heads the firm Field Operations, won a competition years ago to transform the site and imagined a decades-long, evolving earthwork of different grasses, grown, cut and replanted, creating a rich new soil and landscape.
It’s a visionary plan. But regulatory and financial hurdles, along with the usual bureaucratic conflicts, have stalled progress. The state environmental agency wants to make sure the site is safe, which makes sense. At the same time, the price tag — by some estimates, hundreds of millions of dollars — has clearly daunted city leaders and led officials to pursue a piecemeal transformation that could undo Mr. Corner’s concept.
Considering the unconscionable $4 billion (or more) that is being squandered on a new PATH station at the World Trade Center site for perhaps 50,000 commuters, the cost of Fresh Kills doesn’t sound quite so crazy. Now there’s word that the Metropolitan Transit Authority may need to spend $600 million to restore the South Ferry subway station, which opened just in 2009 and was flooded by the storm. It’s hard to say which is more scandalous, that the authority’s planners hadn’t anticipated flooding at a station on the water’s edge, or that subway fare increases will partly go to pay for their shortsightedness.
By comparison, Fresh Kills has come out smelling like roses.
Michael Kimmerman has written a lovely intro to the park. If folks manage to get past bureaucrats and beancounters – they may yet have a 21st-century post-industrial landmark worth visiting.
Children sitting on a makeshift raft play in a river full of rubbish in a slum area of Jakarta.
One of this week’s photos of the week at Reuters News Service.
About 2,000 Afghans protested outside the main US military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday over a report that foreign soldiers improperly disposed of copies of the Koran. US helicopters fired flares to try to break up as many as 2,000 demonstrators who massed outside several gates to the base, chanting anti-foreigner slogans and throwing stones.
Roshna Khalid, the provincial governor’s spokeswoman, said copies of the Muslim holy book had been burnt inside Bagram airbase, an hour’s drive north of the capital Kabul, citing accounts from local labourers.
“The labourers normally take the garbage outside and they found the remains of Korans” Khalid said. Nato’s top general in Afghanistan attempted to contain fury over the incident, which could be a public relations disaster for the US military as it tries to pacify the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014.
“When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities,” said general John Allen, head of the International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF). “This was NOT intentional in any way…”
Is this general an idiot? Is every officer in his command an obedient puppet idiot? Every military force in the West has a book to go by. And doing it “by the book” while stationed abroad is how you do it. Believe me – there already are rules and regulations governing everything from how and why the military acquired copies of the Koran – how they were used by the military – and what was appropriate when that use was completed.
Bagram also houses a prison for Afghans detained by US forces. The centre has caused resentment among Afghans because of reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners, with president Hamid Karzai demanding the transfer of prisoners to Afghan security.
Winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is critical to US efforts to defeating the Taliban but critics say Western forces often fail to grasp Afghanistan’s religious and cultural sensitivities.
American-led forces often fail to grasp the religious and cultural sensitivities of anyone whose kin weren’t on the losing side of the American Civil War. Much less lands outside the territorial boundaries of the 50 states. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There is no shortage of bright, inquisitive, studious, able folks who have joined our military in recent decades. They’re dedicated to bringing our military and our politics into the 21st Century. They just don’t happen to be in charge of a whole helluva lot.
Naples coppers do a perp walk as well as anyone
Languishing in a top-security Italian prison this weekend after 16 years on the run, mob supremo Michele Zagaria has no shortage of time to ponder the reasons for his downfall.
Already convicted in absentia of murder and extortion, the head of the feared Camorra Mafia was arrested last week in his secret underground compound, and now has the rest of his life in prison to work out what led to his capture. Was it a rare informant on his home turf of Casapesenna, just outside Naples, where many townsfolk regard him as a “saint”..?
“…When we finally did surveillance on the house where we thought he was, we checked the rubbish bins and found a very expensive pair of Gallo socks that had been thrown out. I wear Gallo socks myself, but we knew the owner of the house didn’t dress that smartly, so there had to be someone else living there. Someone with plenty money.”
The arrest of Mr Zagaria, 53, whose Casalesi clan was the most powerful of all the Camorristi, could not come at a better time for many Italians, for whom the Mob’s enduring power is a symptom of the same malaise in public life that has also brought the Eurozone crisis and the demise of Mr Berlusconi, who faces court himself over the “bunga bunga” affairs. Interior minister Annamaria Cancellieri hailed it as a “huge success for the state” – not words any Italian politician has had much cause to use recently – while Mario Monti, the newly-installed “technocrat” prime minister, described it as a “beautiful day for all honest people”…
Establishing that he might be in the house was an exhaustive process over many months following his associates and residents of Casapesenna, in which one of the suspicious signs was the amount of electricity the hideout used to keep the bunker properly air-conditioned…
Given that most of Naples’ Flying Squad dress like they might be undercover at a fashion shoot, with narrow-cut jackets, swept-back hair and designer scarves, the discovery of a pair of posh €30 socks was perhaps a more obvious clue than it might have been for their less-style conscious British counterparts. But what clinched it further were empty packets of Merit cigarettes, known as their target’s favoured brand.
RTFA. Nothing unique about the history of the Camorra – including the number of ordinary people who benefitted from portions of the local economy funded and kept useful feeding off gangster businesses. Not especially different from history’s context of villages next to Nazi concentration camps. A steady income is often sufficient to reorganize the morality of “the common man” in a corrupt nation.
Lots of detail – though there are more accurate and detailed histories of this particular subset of Mafia syndicates in Italy and abroad. I think it worth a sneer and a smirk that tossing a pair of expensive socks into the trash turned the key on this chapter of Italy’s criminal class.
A piece of space debris narrowly missed the International Space Station on Tuesday in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft, space agency officials said.
The high-speed object hurtled toward the orbiting lab and likely missed it by just 1,100 feet. The crew moved to shelter inside two Soyuz spacecraft 18 minutes before the debris was expected to pass, NASA said.
“It was probably the closest object that has actually come by the space station,” said the US space agency’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. “We didn’t have any information that it was coming until it was very, very close…”
They spent about half an hour in the Russian space capsules and then went back to their regular day…
Space experts say such events are only becoming more frequent as the amount of waste — from nuts and bolts to rocket parts — is on the rise due to everything from basic wear and tear to controversial military testing.
Millions of chunks of metal, plastic and glass are whirling round Earth, the garbage left from 4,600 launches in 54 years of space exploration.
The collision risk is low, but the junk travels at such high speed that even a tiny shard can cripple a satellite costing tens of millions of dollars…
The ISS is currently manned by three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut…The crew usually stays for six-month stretches aboard the space station.
Phew! Ultra-high-speed impact even with a small object is worse than being shot. In the vacuum of space it’s easily deadly.
Kapatos’ landing zone
A man who jumped out of a ninth-floor window in New York was alive on Monday after he landed in a giant heap of trash uncollected since the city’s huge snowstorm a week ago.
Vangelis Kapatos, 26, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition after jumping from his apartment in midtown Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Sanitation workers have not collected trash since the December 26 storm dumped more than a foot and a half of snow on the city. Mounds of garbage several feet high line many sidewalks.
“Everybody is complaining that the trash hasn’t been picked up,” Kapatos’ aunt said on Monday. “But me, I’m thankful that it was never picked up…”
Katharina Capatos, who spells her surname differently from her nephew, told Reuters he was severely depressed and had spent a month in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital before being released last week.
He also was worried about the possibility of being evicted from his $572-a-month rent-stabilized apartment, she said.
Kapatos’ eviction hearing was scheduled to proceed on Tuesday, according to the New York City Housing Court.
You don’t think any modern city would handle this differently, do you? They’ll probably take a statement from his hospital bed.
Photo by Jamie Rogers
A 37-year-old man picking items out of a dumpster was seriously injured Thursday when the dumpster was emptied into a garbage truck in Vancouver’s West End.
The binner was in serious condition in hospital with broken bones and severe bruising. He was rescued after several people heard him crying for help when the truck was in the 800 block of Cardero Street.
The man told police he was in a dumpster near Burrard and Davie streets when it was picked up by the truck, a distance of about 16 blocks from where he was rescued.
Police said garbage collection continued, which means he had a number of additional dumpster-loads of garbage dumped on him as the Waste Control Service truck followed its route through the West End.
Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness said a woman who heard the man’s cries ran into the lane off Cardero Street to alert the driver, who immediately stopped, called 911 and opened the back of the truck…
The driver was so shaken he booked off work after the incident, said Waste Control Service manager Jeremy Crawford, adding that to his knowledge, it was the first incident of its kind involving the company.
Police investigated the incident as a “casualty call” and did not lay blame, calling it an accident.
Climbing into a dumpster regardless of motivation is reasonably dumb. If you know anything about where you’re scavenging, you should know that drivers work alone – and dumpsters are designed for automated pickup.
No one is going to climb up top and peer inside to see if it’s clear of scavengers. Whether they’re people or rodents.
Typical plastic debris collected in a surface plankton net
Scientists have discovered an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates. The region is said to compare with the well-documented “great Pacific garbage patch”.
Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association told the BBC that the issue of plastics had been “largely ignored” in the Atlantic.
She announced the findings of a two-decade-long study at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, US. The work is the conclusion of the longest and most extensive record of plastic marine debris in any ocean basin…
The researchers carried out 6,100 tows in areas of the Caribbean and the North Atlantic – off the coast of the US. More than half of these expeditions revealed floating pieces of plastic on the water surface…
“We found a region fairly far north in the Atlantic Ocean where this debris appears to be concentrated and remains over long periods of time,” she explained. “More than 80% of the plastic pieces we collected in the tows were found between 22 and 38 degrees north. So we have a latitude for [where this] rubbish seems to accumulate.”
The maximum “plastic density” was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre. “That’s a maximum that is comparable with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr Lavender Law.
But she pointed out that there was not yet a clear estimate of the size of the patches in either the Pacific or the Atlantic.
“You can think of it in a similar way [to the Pacific Garbage Patch], but I think the word ‘patch’ can be misleading. This is widely dispersed and it’s small pieces of plastic,” she said.
The impacts on the marine environment of the plastics were still unknown, added the researcher. “But we know that many marine organisms are consuming these plastics and we know this has a bad effect on seabirds in particular,” she told BBC News.
Human beings would probably continue to crap in an open sewer in the middle of the street if someone didn’t pass a law against it.
The pervasive smoke spewing from the junk heap at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq is causing many returning troops to be concerned about the effects on their long-term health.
For four years, the burn pit was a festering dump, spewing acrid smoke over the base, including housing and the hospital.
Until three incinerators were installed, the smelly pit was the only place to dispose of trash, including plastics, food and medical waste.
“At the peak, before they went to use the real industrial incinerators, it was about 500,000 pounds a day of stuff,” according to a transcript of an April 2008 presentation by Dr. Bill Halperin, who heads the Occupational and Environmental Health Subcommittee at the Defense Health Board. “The way it was burned was by putting jet fuel on it.”
A lawsuit filed against the burn pit operators by a contractor alleges the burn pit also contained body parts.
“Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains. The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths,” says the lawsuit filed in Texas federal court.
Aside from Balad, there are similar pits at bases elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some still have no incinerators…