Fresh Kills

A History of Consuming and Discarding in New York City

Martin V. Melosi

Columbia University Press

Fresh Kills

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231189491

800 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $40.00£34.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231189484

800 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $120.00£100.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231548359

800 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£34.00

Fresh Kills

A History of Consuming and Discarding in New York City

Martin V. Melosi

Columbia University Press

Fresh Kills—a monumental 2,200-acre structure on Staten Island—was once the world’s largest landfill. From 1948 to 2001, it was the main receptacle for New York City’s refuse. After the 9/11 attacks, it reopened briefly to receive human remains and rubble from the destroyed Twin Towers, turning a notorious disposal site into a cemetery. Today, a mammoth reclamation project is transforming the landfill site, constructing an expansive park three times the size of Central Park.

Martin V. Melosi provides a comprehensive chronicle of Fresh Kills that offers new insights into the growth and development of New York City and the relationship among consumption, waste, and disposal. He traces the metamorphoses of the landscape, following it from salt marsh to landfill to cemetery and looks ahead to the future park. By centering the problem of solid-waste disposal, Melosi highlights the unwanted consequences of mass consumption. He presents the Fresh Kills space as an embodiment of massive waste, linking consumption to the continuing presence of its discards. Melosi also uses the landfill as a lens for understanding Staten Island’s history and its relationship with greater New York City. The first book on the history of the iconic landfill, Fresh Kills unites environmental, political, and cultural history to offer a reflection on material culture, consumer practices, and perceptions of value and worthlessness.
Fresh Kills is excellent in many ways–clarity of prose, strength of narration, depth of research, and command of the literature. Melosi is one of the finest urban historians working today, and he is, although this will sound like an unintended slight, the premiere historian of garbage. He possesses as thorough a knowledge of the many relevant secondary literatures as anyone. One could not find a more appropriate scholar to take up this topic. David Stradling, University of Cincinnati
Fresh Kills frames Staten Island’s iconic landfill as not just a repository for solid waste but also a monument to consumer culture. This is an immensely readable and valuable book by a distinguished scholar of environmental history. Michael Rawson, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
Melosi tells the story of the dump that ate New York with panache, rescuing this erstwhile salt marsh from the late-night comedians and, in the process, telling us something deeply important and troubling about postwar American capitalism. Ted Steinberg, author of Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York
One of the pioneers of urban environmental history gives us a meticulously researched and sweeping narrative of New York, Staten Island, and the landfill known as Fresh Kills, revealing a seamy underside of modern prosperity, mass consumption, and of New York politics. The maps and illustrations are marvelous. J.R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Dilemma of Consuming
Part I: The Backdrop
1. Island City
2. Wasting Away
Part II: Staten Island: Borough of Last Resort
3. The Quarantine
4. The Garbage War
Part III: Seeking a Disposal Sink
5. The Go-Away Society
6. One Best Way
7. Futile Protests
Part IV: Living with and Surviving the Landfill
8. The Burning Question
9. The End of Isolation
10. An Environmental Turn
11. Fiscal Crisis and Disposal Dilemma
12. Fresh Kills at Midlife
13. Barge to Nowhere
14. A New Plan
Part V: The Road to Closure
15. Secession
16. Closure
17. Now What?
Part VI: The Post-Closure Era
18. 9/11
19. Regeneration
20. Crossroads
Conclusion
Notes
Index

About the Author

Martin V. Melosi is Cullen Professor Emeritus of History and founding director of the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. His many books include The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present (2000) and Atomic Age America (2013).