Standing atop a mound of buried garbage at Freshkills, it’s hard to imagine the rolling green hills was once the largest landfill on earth. Next year, the first phase of this massive redevelopment project will open to the public. At the north end of the park, 21 acres will be available for biking, hiking, walking and kayaking. Right now, you can only get on site through a guided tour. There are soccer fields and walking trails open to the public around the edges of the former landfill.

Farther north, a much different landfill redevelopment project is just getting started, called Kingsland Meadowlands. It is the former site of a couple municipal landfills in Lyndhurst and Rutherford. “Every single landfill in the region should be put back into productive use,” said Alex Klatskin of Forsgate Industrial Partners, one of the developers spearheading the project. “It’s the future, I think, of development. Since there is no land left in New Jersey.”

These landfills have not accepted garbage in decades, but much still must be done to make a landfill usable and buildable again. “We have two issues,” said Lhabib Chibani with Sadat Associates, an environmental engineering firm that has transformed at least 15 landfills into parks, residential or commercial developments. “One is managing the gas within the landfill. And the other issue is settlement.”

The garbage below ground is still decomposing. It’s sinking. On top of the Lyndhurst-Rutherford landfills, they plan to build six warehouses — over 2.5-million-square feet of commercial space — over the next 6-8 years. To make sure the land can carry that load, they will put a heavy layer of dirt down to simulate the weight a building. This will squeeze the trash and moisture below. But first, they’ll stomp on it with crushing force. “They’re dropping a 15-ton weight many, many times over a small grid area, a 9-by-9 foot grid. And they’re doing it repeatedly,” said Michael Pembroke, COO of Russo Development, a partner on the Kingsland Meadowlands project. The site spans 718-acres, of which over 500-acres will be preserved for wildlife.

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