MAY 15th • STATEN ISLAND
On Wednesday May 15th, we picked Su-Yee up from the Ferry Terminal in Staten Island on one of the few perfect days we’ve seen this spring. Blue sky, bright sun, with clouds like paintings and just enough of a forceful breeze to keep us moving.
Su-Yee is a writer currently working on a bird-centered narrative drawing from mythology while simultaneously placed in the speculative future of climate change. Freshkills Park, once the largest landfill in the world and now the largest NYC green space endeavor in over 100 years is a testament to transformation. It was an immediate choice for matching Su-Yee’s work with a natural landscape.
We were met by Mariel Villeré, the Arts and Program manager at Freshkills Park, outside the park and escorted in. After being introduced to the amazing vantage from North Park we left Su-Yee to her time and Mariel’s balanced hosting. Here’s are some of Su-Yee’s reflections during her residency.
Coming here to Freshkills, there's a lot to take in. The transformation of the park from landfill to nature preserve, the resiliency of nature (the deer that swim across the river, the volunteer trees on the mounds, planted by seeds dropped by birds and other animals), the effect on the local economy, the understanding that this is a project that takes years and years and years. In the here and now, so much has returned—there's fish in the creeks and osprey in the trees, and a quiet that signifies space to breathe and to think.
Because there are so many birds in my story and here in Freshkills Park, I'm thinking a lot about sound and how to capture it on paper. The mechanical whirr and twang of the red-winged blackbird, the strident calls of gulls signaling a bird of prey overhead. The soft chirps of sparrows and the familiar warbling song of the robin. Killdeer, nothing as imposing as its name suggests, call with their high-pitched cries—what I'd thought somewhat like a gull's, and the sound they're named after. A high chipping call of another bird I cannot identify and a high-pitched whistle like the intake of a breath. How to bring sound into a story: here, the wind rustling new leaves, the hum of an airplane overhead, those various birdcalls that are both familiar and unfamiliar. Just a part of the landscape but such an important part: how do you describe what you expect to always be there? What happens once it's gone?
Read more of Su-Yee’s work at https://suyeelin.com.
Afterthoughts: Su-Yee Lin was our first 360 applicant and Freshkills Park was the first space we contacted as a match. If it was a portend of things to come, we were off to a good start. Driving into Freshkills park is a stunning kaleidoscope mixing past with future- the return of birds and grasses to the once thriving marsh wetlands feels prehistoric and simultaneously hopeful towards the possibility of transformation. Sometimes we find we need to make something new, and sometimes we find we need to recognize and nurture what already existed before we made the wall in the first place.
Mariel Villeré, the manager of Programs, Arts and Grants at Freshkills Park, keeps up a stream of creative curation in both the arts and sciences, giving the public access into the not entirely open/finished park. We were grateful for her immediately getting why we would go through all this process to match an artist in a space for just 360 minutes.
Just like our actions, our former trash and future remediations, the ripples will last way beyond one day’s clock.
Thank you Freshkills Park.