Call for Proposals: Urban Wild Writer Residency

Applications are due May 1, 2018 at 11:59 PM.

Urban Omnibus announces a new opportunity for an Urban Wild Writer in partnership with NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance. Thoreau explored wilderness in earshot of a commuter train and walking distance from his mother’s house. Rachel Carson plumbed the biodiversity of suburbia. We seek a writer to explore and interpret the contemporary urban landscape where highways meet gas wells, herons, and kayakers.

This new and unique experience for one writer-in-residence will take place at the 2,200 acre closed landfill on Staten Island that will become the second-largest public park in New York City. This writing residency seeks to bring a first-hand perspective to topics that include the environment, technology, urban life, nature, and waste. One writer will gain personal access to the diverse ecosystems present in the unopened park in late summer, 2018. The writer will produce a work of creative nonfiction engaging with the contemporary metropolitan landscape to be published online by Urban Omnibus in the fall of 2018. The residency is designed to be short, flexible, and out of doors.

About the Hosts: Freshkills Park and Urban Omnibus

Freshkills Park represents the transformation of Fresh Kills Landfill into an extraordinary 2,200-acre urban park that will be a model for sustainable waterfront land reclamation, a source of pride for Staten Island and New York City, and a gift of open space for generations to come.

Urban Omnibus is The Architectural League of New York’s online publication dedicated to observing, understanding, and shaping the city. We raise new questions, illuminate diverse perspectives, and document creative projects to advance the collective work of citymaking.

Compensation and Logistics

The five day residency may take place continuously over the course of a week, or over multiple weekends or days from August to September 2018. The resident will receive a stipend of $1,000 USD. The residency will additionally reimburse up to $500 in travel and accommodation expenses as necessary; hotel accommodation is available near the Park and local transportation can be arranged. Freshkills Park will provide transportation from the Staten Island Ferry or Lower Manhattan to and around the interior of the Park.

At Freshkills, the writer-in-residence will have accompanied access to various parts of the site and the ability to observe and interview engineers, ecologists, researchers, groundskeepers, and others engaged in the work of making the Park. In preparing their proposal, applicants are encouraged to think creatively about how they would engage the landscape, including the people who work within it. The writer will also have access to the indoors Freshkills Park Studio + Gallery space for writing during agreed upon hours.

The Park is wheelchair accessible on paved roads, although there may be limited access to facilities and shade. We do not discriminate based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

For more information about the site, applicants should consult the resources compiled below. With any questions that are not answered by these resources, including questions about what will be possible on site during the residency (Can I set fires? No. Can I take pictures? Yes!) please contact


Nonfiction writers at any stage of their careers are welcome to apply. A completed application includes:

1. A completed application form.

2. A CV or resumé.

3. A writing sample not to exceed 10 pages of writing. The sample may be one piece or selections from multiple pieces of work.

Applications are due May 1, 2018 at 11:59pm and should be sent as a single PDF to

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Selection Process and Timeline

A panel of jurors will select the writer-in-residence: writer Garnette Cadogan, editor-at-large of Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas and author of “Walking While Black”; writer Robert Sullivan, author of The Meadowlands, Rats, and The Thoreau You Don’t Know; landscape architect Gena Wirth, Design Principal at SCAPE; and representatives of Urban Omnibus and Freshkills Park. The writer will be notified in early June, and the residency will take place over four to five days in August and/or September; depending on the writer’s proposal the five days could be continuous or spread out over several weeks. Urban Omnibus will publish the finished work of creative nonfiction online in the fall.

Resources and Recommended Reading for Writers

General Information and History of Freshkills Park

NYC is the most populated city in the country, with over 8.5 million residents. Of New York City’s five boroughs Staten Island is the third largest and the least densely populated, with just under 500,000 residents. The borough is changing rapidly — demographically, physically, and culturally. Staten Island is grappling with many of the same issues that comparable mid-sized American cities face — transportation, sustainable development, and population shifts caused, in part, by immigration. The history of Freshkills Park is intertwined with the history of Staten Island. For the 53 years prior to becoming Freshkills Park it was the site of the Fresh Kills Landfill. When established in 1948 it was proposed as a temporary landfill that would become commercial, industrial and residential development; instead, it continued to grow in size and within seven years became the world’s largest landfill. Fresh Kills remained in operation, becoming the last remaining landfill in NYC, until pressure from Staten Island community members led to landfill closure in March 2001. This history and responses surrounding the landfill remain important pieces in the consciousness of Staten Island residents.

Location and Park Development

Freshkills Park is located on the west shore of Staten Island; it is bordered by residential neighborhoods on the north and south, the Staten Island Mall on the east and the Arthur Kill, an industrial waterway, on the west. The Park is bisected by Fresh Kills Creek, which then splits into Main and Richmond Creeks, creating three landforms that compose the site.

Local advocacy groups and city government decided in 2001 to reuse the land at Fresh Kills once the landfill was closed and capped. At 2,200 acres Freshkills Park is the largest park developed in over 100 years, and will be the second largest park in NYC once complete. Its history and size present a unique opportunity to design a revolutionary park for 21st century concerns.

James Corner Field Operations won the 2001 design competition for Freshkills Park. The firm then created the draft Master Plan that is used today to guide design and construction of park projects. The Park is being developed first around the exterior edges, giving those that lived near the landfill initial access to the Park. Each park section will have its own identity and NYC Parks is working with a range of designers to complete them. The unifying principles behind the design are large expanses of open areas that allow for the development of natural systems, with programming concentrated in certain areas within the Park, unified by a circulation plan throughout the 2,200 acres.

Three completed park projects are open to the public: a playground, a greenway, and soccer fields. North Park Phase One is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2020, connecting the playground to the interior creeks as the first project constructed within the landfill boundaries.

Adjacent to the greenway and on the east side of the Park is Freshkills Park Studio + Gallery, a community gallery in which artists, designers, curators, and community groups investigate, innovate, and interpret themes related to the world’s largest landfill-to-park project through exhibitions and public programing at the intersection of art, ecology, science, and technology.

Fresh Kills Park Discovery Day, October, 2017. Photo by Michael McWeeney via Freshkills Park
Fresh Kills Park Discovery Day, October, 2017. Photo by Michael McWeeney via Freshkills Park


The vast majority of Freshkills Park is currently closed to the public while it is built over time. Programming to activate the site and engage the community is an integral part of the Freshkills Park development process. This is accomplished through events such as Discovery Day, runs, kayak tours, biking races, art workshops, temporary installations and performances, school field trips, and volunteer events. Freshkills Park also serves as a space to study urban ecology through over 20 different active research projects ranging from bird banding to water monitoring and turtle health research. More here. 

Landfill to Park Transformation

There are a series of steps that are necessary to transform the landfill into the Park, including soil and geotextile layers to stabilize the waste layers and seal them off from the outside environment. There are also systems of infrastructure to manage the waste byproducts that are generated as the waste breaks down including a landfill gas collection system, leachate collection system, and a stormwater system that collects runoff from the mounds.

Landfill Cap Layers

  • Waste: The waste was layered with soil while the landfill was active to create stability within the mounds.
  • Soil Barrier Layer: At least two feet deep, this layer covers the garbage and ensures the hills are stable.
  • Gas Venting Layer: The gas venting layer is a thick geotextile made to promote collection and absorption of gas in soil.
  • Impermeable Plastic Liner: The impermeable plastic liner is a different type of geotextile made from a thin, hard plastic material. Neither water nor gas can move through this layer.
  • Drainage Layer: A geotextile similar to the gas venting layer is used as a drainage layer. It helps move water off of the mounds to eliminate extra weight on the infrastructure and encourages proper drainage.
  • Barrier Protection Material: The barrier protection material is made of at least two feet of sandy soil placed on top of the drainage layer. This soil protects the geotextiles underneath and aids in the stability of the mound.
  • Planting Soil: Lastly, at least six inches of clean planting soil is spread over the barrier protection material. The soil is seeded with a native plant mix, the roots of which help stabilize the mounds and absorb water.

More information is available here

Stormwater System

A collection of swales, downchutes, and detention basins move storm water away from the soil layers on the landfill cap. The mounds have slopes graded to facilitate drainage. Swales direct water to down chutes that flow into storm water control basins.

Landfill gas wells extend down into the waste layer. The bottom of each well is perforated to allow particles of landfill gas inside. The vertical wells are connected to a network of lateral pipes, which are connected to nearby flare stations and a landfill gas purification plant. Photo by Andrea Callard via Freshkills Park
Landfill gas wells extend down into the waste layer. The bottom of each well is perforated to allow particles of landfill gas inside. The vertical wells are connected to a network of lateral pipes, which are connected to nearby flare stations and a landfill gas purification plant. Photo by Andrea Callard via Freshkills Park

Landfill Gas Collection System

Landfill gas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs) created by anaerobic bacteria who feed on decomposing waste. Since the cap prevents landfill gas from migrating into the atmosphere, a network of wells and pipes collect landfill gas from the waste layer. It is then sent to one of four flare stations throughout the Park before being sent to the treatment plant to refine the gas into methane that can be sold. NYC then uses the purified natural gas for natural gas vehicles and sells the gas to National Grid for distribution to Staten Island homes and businesses.

Leachate Collection System

Leachate is created when rainwater percolates through waste and picks up particles, including potential contaminants, from the garbage along the way. The leachate collection system consists of walls, drains, and wells that collect the leachate and prevent it from migrating into the adjacent soils and surface water. The collected leachate is then pumped to a treatment plant that separates the water from the waste materials. At the treatment plant, the leachate is physically and chemically processed to separate harmful materials from clean water. Then, the clean water is discharged into the Arthur Kill waterway. The solids are dewatered and compressed into sludge cakes that are transported to residential waste landfills.

Additional Resources

Urban Omnibus and Freshkills Park have teamed up in the past to share Capturing Change, a collaborative photography series that shares visions of the Park in process over the seasons and its construction.

Check out Freshkills Park Selected Press for more information on the evolution of the park.

Questions? Contact