Is It Still a Wonderful Life?: The Impacts of Seneca Meadows Landfill on the Communities of Waterloo and Seneca Falls After Fresh Kills Closure in 2001

by Michael Schober

Site Description:

 Project Description:

Fresh Kills Landfill was opened in 1948 with the purpose of giving New York City’s Trash a home and by 1955 it had become the largest Landfill in the World. Over the next fifty years the landfill would continue to operate, with mounds of trash growing that could be seen from the New York City Skyline. Following outcries from the citizen’s of Long Island and outspoken actvisits regarding the health dangers resulting from the landfill as well as the impact it had on quality of life in the area, in the late 1990s the park finally closed it’s operations opening again for a brief stint to deal with the waste from the horrific attatcks on 9/11. Not only was the landfill closed, but in its place there is currently a multi million dollar recreational park project being put in place for the beenfit of the citizens of Staten Island. While this was seen as an environmental victory on all ends, there remains one question; where did the garbage go? The answer reveals another environmental issue 200 plus miles away in Waterloo New York, home of the Seneca Meadows Landfill. The Seneca Meadows Landfill is one of the many landfills which has taken the place of Fresh Kills Landfill in dealing with the extensive amount of Waste from New York City. While Staten Island began to heal it’s environment, the small town of Waterloo NY which did not have the population size or influence of Staten Island instead became home to a growing landfill resulting in numerous issues for the town both health and business related. Despite New York’s Environmental agenda, this landfill has been allowed to grow as the small town of Waterloo fights to stop it from extending it’s contract with the state. This project holds great significance as it demonstrates an example of where enviornmental victories can unintentionally lead to issues in other areas.

Watch this short video story on this project.

Author Biography:

My name is Michael Schober and I am currently a senior student studying Law, Technology, and Culture as well as History at the New Jersey Institute Of Technology. I currently live in New Jersey but was originally born in New York and have a number of family members form the area. As a result I spent a large amount of time in the city which is where I first recognized and became interested in New York’s unique challenge with regards to waste management.

Final Report:


Red, White and Blue Ribbons draped across the sides of a long barge. In bold black letters, the words “last barge” stuck out. A crowd filled with reporters, workers, and politicians gathered amongst the backdrop of tall, towering skyscrapers of garbage. Among the crowd a triumphant voice declared a powerful and resounding statement to the crowd of onlookers, “No more garbage for the people of Staten Island” [1] On March 22nd, 2001, Governor Pataki delivered this powerful message alongside Mayor Giuliani and Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari signifying the closure of Fresh Kills Landfill. The egregious mountains of trash which had plagued the citizens of Staten Island for 50 years leaving an imprint on their history and life finally had a different destiny. These towers of filth were to be transformed into luscious green hills serving as the backdrop for a new park which the families and residents of Staten Island could enjoy.

But what was to happen with the trash of New York City as the sudden closure of Fresh Kills did not stop the thousands of tons of garbage being produced in the city each day. This end presented a new challenge to the city of New York which needed a new alternative to its waste management system and most importantly, this trash needed somewhere to go where it would not disturb the residents of NYC. The closure of Fresh Kills opened the doors for a new super landfill with the city electing to distribute a substantial portion of its waste to the Seneca Meadows Landfill. Located in the town of Waterloo NY, this landfill which currently accepts thousands of tons of garbage from NYC by rail and truck each day has grown to unprecedented size from NYC waste having a detrimental effect on the citizens of Waterloo and Seneca Falls.

The closure of Fresh Kills and its transformation into a protected environmental site is often celebrated as an environmental triumph. However, the reality reveals a different narrative: the challenges have merely been shifted to communities like Seneca County Meadows. Due to its older population and smaller overall size, this part of Seneca County was selected as a destination for Fresh Kills’ garbage, enabling easier concealment and resulting in less outspoken protests compared to those witnessed during the closure of Fresh Kills. Despite the challenge, the community has refused to give in to having their towns overshadowed by this landfill and has been fighting to stop the landfill from extending its permit and grasp on their lives.

Throughout the course of this paper, I will look to explore several questions with regards to the situation including questions concerning what the socioeconomic differences are between the communities surrounding Fresh Kills Landfill and Seneca Meadows Landfill. How have these differences influenced waste management decisions and community responses? Furthermore, how has the growth and expansion of Seneca Meadows Landfill been influenced by its acceptance of waste from New York City, and what are the environmental, social, and economic impacts of this growth on the surrounding communities? To understand the situation’s scope, I am interested in understanding who the key environmental groups actively engaged in opposing the Seneca Meadows Landfill expansion. Furthermore, I am interested in identifying the legal and regulatory frameworks governing landfill operations and expansions in New York State, with a specific interest on how/ if these frameworks consider community input with regards to decision-making processes? Finally, I am interested in what lessons can be learned from the experiences of communities like Seneca Falls and Waterloo in addressing the environmental and social impacts of landfill operations, and what do these lessons say for New York’s auspicious environmental Zero Waste Challenge.

There has been much writing about Fresh Kills Landfills’ operations and the impact its years of operation had on the citizens of Staten Island and surrounding areas. Writings on Fresh Kills have focused on subjects like what Fresh Kills revealed about the city of New York’s issues regarding consumption and waste disposal. Important writings around this subject include Martin Melosi’s book Fresh Kills: A History of Consuming and Discarding in New York City which offers a detailed exploration of the site’s transformation from a landfill to a monumental park, shedding light on the complex relationships present in NYC’s waste management circle.[2] Other writings on the subject such as this paper in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, furthermore, emphasize the health risks and effects on citizens living and working within proximity of the landfill.[3] Research and writings about Fresh kills had an instrumental effect on the landfill’s closure and eventual transformation turning into a multi-million-dollar environmental project. The story around fresh kills stops here as few have explored the effects of fresh kills closure in terms of the communities who now endure the brunt of the waste from NYC. My paper will differ from others as I look to pick up the story following the closure of Fresh Kills in terms of the effect it has had on the community of Waterloo through the Seneca Meadows Landfill.

Through this research, I will start by introducing fresh kills closure and briefly go into its closing history, focusing on the City of New York’s Department of Sanitation long-term planning with the closure of the landfill. This will give important context to the situation in Waterloo, New York in terms of the part it plays in the larger waste management system of New York City. From there I will go into the Seneca Meadows Landfill and its history starting as a small residential landfill before eventually turning into the massive waste entity it is today following the closure of Fresh Kills. Along with this massive size increase, I will analyze the numerous effects this growth has had on the town ranging from a ghastly smell lurking over the town of Waterloo to much more serious effects such as an alarming spike in instances of lung cancer surrounding the area. To understand this situation, I will highlight the numerous environmental and local groups combating the landfill’s expansion and status in the town through protest and other official manners.

Fresh Kills History & Closure 

New York City has always had a troubled history with regards to its waste management policies as the city long suffered to control its own growth in terms of physical structures and people calling it home. For years, New York harbor and the Atlantic Ocean served as the city’s dumping grounds, the effects of which can still be seen today. With a need to find a solution to this problem, especially as the city began to undergo large-scale urban development, the city turned its eyes to the marshes and banks of Staten Island’s Fresh Kills. In 1948, Fresh Kills Landfill was opened initially to accept waste for urban development projects but soon after became the permanent site for all of NYC’s municipal and residential garbage. The scale of waste from the city led to extensive growth of the landfill eventually becoming the largest landfill in the world at around 2200 acres[4].

The growth of Fresh Kills did not go unnoticed as events such as the syringe tide in the 1980s, in which medical waste from Fresh kills washed up in large deposits on NYC public beaches revealed the landfill’s dangerous effects on neighboring communities. Furthermore, the borough of Staten Island was plagued by a horrid smell as well as garbage from the landfill making its way into communities nearby. The imagery of garbage poured over the streets of Staten Island served as powerful motivators for activists and researchers to focus their efforts on this area. A combined effort on behalf of activists/ professionals along with a strong local protest to the landfill was finally heard and plans for the closure of the landfill were finally announced in 1996 only delayed containing the debris from the 9/11 Terrorist attacks. Not only was the landfill closed, however. The City of New York went a step further with regards to right-ing its prior wrongs as plans for a new park built on the ruins of the landfill were announced. This new environmentally protected site would serve as a residential park for the families who lived with the consequences of Fresh Kills Actions for years.

The closure of Fresh Kills Landfill presented new challenges to New York as it looked for alternatives for its waste disposal. Establishing a similar landfill to Fresh Kills near NYC would have been seen as a step backwards and would not have survived given the city and resident’s prior response to Fresh Kills. A report on behalf of The City of New York’s Office of Comptroller and Office of Public Management in 2013 illustrates the city’s solution to these problems as well as the resulting problems, “With the closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill in 2001, New York City more than doubled the volume of putrescible waste it exported. The result has been accelerated closure times for nearby landfills and many local wastes transfer stations operating at close to 100 percent of their permitted capacity.” [5] By exporting their waste out of the city, NYC has chosen to place this undue burden onto communities outside of its limits. This quote is, however, misleading as the problems of this exportation extend much further than just local landfills. One community affected by this exportation is the neighboring cities of Waterloo and Seneca Falls New York, 5 hours driving from NYC. These communities, once known for their inspiration of the famous Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” [6]now have a different reputation because of the Seneca Meadows Landfill which sits between these two communities.

Seneca Meadows Landfill

Seneca Meadows Landfill first opened in 1983 20 years before Fresh kills Landfill closure. The Landfill sits on the site of what was once the Tantalo construction company and was first opened for the use of the citizens and businesses of Seneca County NY. Following the closure of Fresh Kills, Seneca Meadows landfill was targeted to be one of the leading importers of this newly displaced New York City Trash. Seneca Meadows Landfill today accepts 6000 tons of waste from NYC Waste making up approximately 40 percent of its total capacity.[7] Since first accepting waste from NYC, Seneca Meadows Landfill has undergone several expansions to expand not only the amount of waste it imports from New York but also its physical size. Global Infrastructure Magazine reported on one of these expenditures when “In 2007 the landfill secured an extension of its operating permit that allows it to accept 31 million more tons of waste over time and means it will continue operations through at least 2023.”[8] With its’ growth in size, Seneca Meadows Landfill experienced further growth in its standing within the town in terms of its influence both economically and politically. Currently in Seneca Falls, half of the town’s current budget comes from the millions of dollars paid to the town in Landfill Host fees. On the other hand, the town of Waterloo has not received any such fees. [9]

This influence extends furthermore politically, as the Landfill gives a significant amount towards political races in both local and state elections. In the most recent town Board elections, the “Texas-based owner of Seneca Meadows Inc. contributed $200,000 to an advocacy group devoted to helping a pair of Republican candidates win seats on the five-member Seneca Falls town board” reported by the Seneca County NY Democratic Committee .[10] What was once a business has now become an entity of power within the town, being able to dictate its influence as opposed to the citizens as well as influence decisions made politically throughout the town. This is important to note as it gives a reason as to why the landfill has been allowed to grow and expand despite resistance on behalf of the citizens of these two towns. Citizens within the respective towns are made to be dependent on the landfill.

The Demographics surrounding Fresh Kills and Seneca Meadows

Looking at the communities of Waterloo and Seneca Falls neighboring the Seneca Meadows Landfill, compared with the communities that surrounded Fresh kills, socioeconomic differences are revealed between them. A deeper look into these differences gives reasoning as to why the Seneca Meadows landfill became a designated sight for New York City garbage and was allowed to grow and operate while Fresh Kills was closed and transformed. For starters, these two areas have an exceptionally large population difference with the borough of Staten Island hosting a population of half a million people.[11] On the contrary, the towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls have a combined population of just around ten thousand people.[12]  This population size difference significantly impacts the attention each area receives on a statewide and national level. Furthermore, Staten Island being in one of New York City’s Five Boroughs furthermore gives it the notoriety of being in not only a heavy media center but furthermore its large population also grants it the attention of Politicians looking to make changes in areas with the most potential voters. On the other hand, Seneca County sits in upstate New York and besides the interest they garner from tourism around the finger lakes, very few eyes of concern are focused on the towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls.

Furthermore, a closer look into each of these populations reveals further differences between each respective population. Using the EJ Screen Database for Socioeconomic Indicators within these populations, I found that the area around Seneca Meadows Landfill had a population that was roughly 70% over the age of 64. [13] The area surrounding Fresh Kills on the other hand has less than 50% of their population over the age of 64.[14] This difference in the population breakdowns is important in understanding why Seneca Meadows was chosen to receive NYC garbage and why the Seneca Meadows Landfill has been allowed to continue to grow and build despite demonstrating many of the similar issues as its predecessor, Fresh kills. Whereas Fresh kills was in an area with a larger, younger, and more politically charged population, Seneca Meadows Landfill is in a smaller and older community that does not have the same voice as its counterpart. The Result has been the residents living around Seneca Meadows Landfill have faced several challenges with regards to the landfill’s impact on the community.

Seneca Meadows Landfill’s Impact on the Community

The Proximity to Seneca Meadows Landfill has been a focal point for a number of environmental and health concerns within the town of waterloo. While the focus around landfills is typically surrounding environmental pollution, the impact they can have on public health is a significant aspect that cannot be overlooked. Landfill operations are known to release various pollutants into the air, including Particulate matter, PCBs, and other chemicals such as Hydrogen Sulfide. These emissions can have adverse effects on respiratory health, exacerbating conditions such as asthma and increasing the risk of lung cancer. In Seneca County, “The DOH reported that lung cancer cases there were 36 percent higher than expected in 2011-2025 and 63 percent higher in 2013-2017.” As such the Agency has classified the area as a “lung cancer cluster.” [15]

This increase in lung cancer presents as an anomaly when you consider the areas associated with factors that would increase their risks of cancer. Common Ground Health, a Rochester-based research organization that focuses on nine Finger Lakes counties, pegged Seneca County’s adult smoking rate at around 15 percent, second lowest in the region and well below the state average. It is furthermore important to note that these rates of lung cancer have been found only in the areas directly surrounding the Seneca Meadows landfill and were 36% higher than in the census tracts immediately South and West of them. [16] The link between instances of lung cancer and proximity to the landfill highlights the scary reality for residents who are unfortunate enough to live or work close to the landfill. One business owner, Bill Lutz, reported in 2017 that “Currently, we have experienced a sewer gas odor so potent that some of our employees have felt sick and have been unable to work in the front offices.” [17]Furthermore, as the Landfill seeks to expand and grow, the various pollutants and emissions released by the landfill will also increase. This has the hazardous potential to not only further increase the already growing cancer rate, but also contribute to spikes in other respiratory conditions.

The effects of the landfill have not only contributed to the health risks for citizens but have had deeper effects on the town’s wellbeing in terms of its effects on areas such as increased urban traffic to and from the landfill as well as lingering sewer smells throughout town. For the citizens of Waterloo and Seneca Falls, the effect has decreased home values and problems for businesses and tourism in the area. One environmental group in the area, The Sierra Club addressed this in a newsletter on the landfill, “​​The environmental effects of the landfill include bad odors, wind-borne particulate matter, PFAS-laden leachate, methane release, unsightliness, a large amount of truck traffic with its attendant degradation of roads and exhaust pollution, recurrent fires in pollution control structures, and more.”[18] The odors released from the landfill have been a consistent issue since it first started accepting NYC Trash, and the landfill has been unable to produce a permanent solution. At a town board meeting in Seneca Falls, the issue of odors came up and the following exchange between Supervisor Keith Kubasik and a Landfill representative occurred, “Supervisor Keith Kubasik, R-Waterloo, described the past two weeks as “horrendous, horrible and an awful stink. It is ghastly just to go outside. That will not increase tourism.” [19] Tourism is one of the single largest industries in the Finger Lakes region and Seneca County accounts for 2% of the 3.3-billion-dollar industry.[20] With each expansion of the landfill, the town’s tourism industry takes a hit as the town becomes less known for its location in the finger lakes and more known for the smell and mountain of trash which accompany it.

Tourism is not the only area which has taken a hit as a result of the smells and discharge from the landfill. The housing market, especially neighborhoods and streets closest to the landfill have experienced decreases in property value as proximity to the landfill and the consequences that come with it have made the area less than ideal to live in. One of these areas includes Burgess Road which sits directly west of the landfill, where residents have seen their property value diminish because of the environmental effects from the Landfill. In 2023, an agreement was set up to protect residents’ property value who had been affected but only if the landfill received its expansion into 2040.[21] Residents living amidst the landfill are faced with the ultimatum of having to accept this major landfill overtaking their town to not lose part of their estate.

Resistance to the Landfill

Despite the state of New York’s attempts to continue to exploit the towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls through means of this Landfill, the citizens have fought back in multiple venues including both legal and social spheres. In 2016, following years of living with the many environmental and socio-economic issues that came with Seneca Meadows and its multiple expansion attempts, the Seneca Falls town board brought up a vote to adopt Local Law 3. Local Law 3, which passed resoundingly with a 4-1 vote on the board, set a closing date for the Seneca Meadows Landfill much to the favor of the citizens and environmental groups in the area.[22] What seemed to be a simple case of citizens deciding about their town was met with immediate resistance on behalf of Landfill who filed suit to reverse the Local Law. The case, Seneca Meadows Inc. vs. Town of Seneca Falls Town Board, Concerned Citizens of Seneca County, and Dixie Lemmon 2023 was heard in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division. In this case, Judge Doyle ruled against the town in favor of the landfill because the town did not have the authority to make decisions about the landfill and rested with the Department of Environmental Conservation.[23] Steve Churchill a former board member had the following to say with regards to the landfill, “It is sad that people such as Judge Doyle, who do not live in the shadow of a mega-dump and have no choice but to live with the stench, the trucks, and the view of a 300-foot pile of decaying garbage, get to render a decision that impacts our lives and that of our children.” [24]

This case raises questions and concerns about the State of New York’s handling of the Seneca Meadows Landfill and the hypocritical nature of its current environmental laws and statutes. In 2021, the state passed what is known as The Green Amendment, a constitutional amendment with the purpose of ensuring that “Each person shall have the right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”[25] While this idea sounds good in theory, in action this right has proven to be subjective as the citizens of Waterloo and Seneca Falls continue to live with the overpowering stench of Seneca Meadows. In 2017, there were multiple complaints throughout Seneca Falls and Waterloo regarding Sewer Smells. Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Mike Ferrara ordered Seneca Meadows to stop discharging its leachate into the local sewer system “until we determine the cause of the excess hydrogen sulfide.”[26] The smells subsequently subsided showing that the cause had been the landfill itself. While this demonstrates an example of the community successfully making changes to the landfill’s operations for the betterment of their community, in the years to follow the landfill has not made information regarding its leachate contamination public.[27] Despite the landfill proving on multiple occasions its inability to control the stench of its operations, the state of New York has denied the citizens the right to decide for themselves whether they want to live with this landfill.

The fight to stop Seneca Meadows landfill has occurred not only in the courtrooms, but furthermore on the streets through the work of numerous community activist groups as well as local citizens. Despite its small population size the citizens of Waterloo and Seneca Falls in a concerted effort have fought back through organized efforts geared towards showing their story and what life under the landfill has been. One such example of this effort was a 2011 Panel held by two environmental groups in the area, The Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition and Concerned Citizens of Seneca County. This panel focused on the correlation between Landfills, Toxins, and Public Health specifically focusing on lung cancer rates in the area. While the Landfill attempted to dismiss this discussion making public refutes classifying it as misleading and irresponsible. [28] The subsequent data over the next 5 years would prove these concerns to be legitimate as lung cancer rates spiked.

Community efforts have also focused around preventing the landfill’s expansion as the landfill has undergone several expansions in the short amount of time since it has started accepting NYC Trash. One of the most telling demonstrations on behalf of the citizens was in 2015 through 2016 regarding proposed plans for a railyard project that would increase the amount of trash received by the landfill by train. This project first reached approval between the Seneca Meadows Landfill and the New York Department of Sanitation sketching out a 3.3-billion-dollar deal with a contract period of 20 years. [29] This contract was approved without input from the town and came while the landfill’s contract had not been extended and was supposed to close in a few short years. This plan was met with large community outlash as protesters took to the streets to voice their opinions on the matter. One resident interviewed by the Democrat & Chronicle had the following to say, “It stunned us that they would consider a contract when they are supposed to be closing. So really, it is an assault on our community.”[30] Residents in Waterloo and Seneca Falls have been dutifully neglected by the state of New York as decisions regarding their community landscape are being made without input from the residents themselves. This proposed railyard shows the city’s ulterior motives with Seneca Meadows Landfill despite their claims to the public.


            The story of Fresh Kills Landfill is far from over as the mega landfill of NYC Trash that once stood tall in Staten Island has been transported to Upstate New York in the form of Seneca Meadows Landfill. When Governor Pataki signed his executive order closing Fresh Kills, the city of New York did not have a sufficient plan with regards to handling its waste output and as such Seneca Meadows has undergone several expansions to better fit the needs of NYC. The celebration held at the closing of Fresh Kills with all its ribbons and celebrations in retrospect more aptly serves as a welcoming party for a host of problems the residents surrounding Seneca Meadows would have to endure for the years to follow. Seneca County’s older population and smaller size made it a preferred destination for Fresh Kills’ garbage disposal. However, the community remains resolute, fighting against the landfill’s expansion and its impact on their lives.

The town’s distance to the landfill and its operations along with research data regarding the citizens living there has revealed a significant spike in Lung Cancer Instances surrounding the landfill. Furthermore, the town has been plagued by a horrific smell from H2S produced at the landfill which has been cast all over town. This smell has resulted in a severely diminished quality of life for residents near the landfill, threatening business as well as tourism within the area. The citizens of Waterloo and Seneca Falls through local environmental groups such as Concerned Citizens of Seneca County, Sustainable Finger Lakes, and Finger Lakes Zero Waste Correlation have continued to fight back in both official venues such as the courts as well as through civil protest. These groups have found some success in reclaiming their community identity landfill, yet Seneca Meadows continues to operate as of 2024 as debates continue to swirl with its permit expiring in 2025.

Currently, the vote within the town board has yet to be held as the town has elected to table the vote for the fourth straight meeting. The reasoning for the vote is due to continued complaints about the air smell in Waterloo and Seneca County and concerns about air quality. These concerns have not only stalled the town vote, but also further prompted a recent lawsuit which has been filed against Seneca Meadows for violation of the Green Amendment guaranteeing all citizens a right to clean air. Seneca Meadows’ continued neglect of the smells and effects its facilities have had on the surrounding air now threatens their permit extension as the town of Waterloo has a demonstrated history of failure on the side of the landfill.

In the grand scheme of New York City’s broader waste management plan, there are significant disparities between NYC’s words and actual actions. In 2016, the Office of the Mayor in New York City revealed an ambitious city plan with a goal of eliminating waste landfill exports by the year 2030. While this planning sounds good, the current events in Seneca Meadows with regards to expanding not only the landfill itself but how the landfill accepts its trash reveals an insincerity on behalf of New York City towards its Zero Waste initiative. As it stands, the citizens of Seneca Falls and Waterloo still have a lot of work to do with removing the mountain of trash in their backyard and returning to the wonderful life they used to be known for.



[1] Robert Sullivan and Jade Doskow. “How the World’s Largest Garbage Dump Evolved into a Green Oasis.” The New York Times, 14 August 2020.

[2] Martin V. Melosi, ”Fresh kills: A history of consuming and discarding in New York City.“  New York: Columbia University Press, 2020

[3] Cone, J.E., Osahan, S., Ekenga, C.C., Miller-Archie, S.A., Stellman, S.D., Fairclough, M., Friedman, S.M., & Farfel, M.R. (2016).”Asthma among Staten Island fresh kills landfill and barge workers following the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attacks.” Am. J. Ind. Med., 59, 795-804. 1 September 2016.

[4] Department of Parks & Recreation, City of New York, “Freshkills Park: NYC Parks. Site History,”

[5] William C. Thompson, “New York City’s impending solid waste crisis,” City of New York Office of the Comptroller & Office of Public Mangement, October 2004.

[6] Jarret Murphy, “Life near a Landfill: The Towns and People Who End up with NYC Trash,” City Limits, 4 February 2017.

[7] Rebecca Redelmeier, “New York’s Largest Landfill Wants to Expand, but Questions Remain over the State’s Waste Future,” WXXI News, 9 February 2024.

[8] Keith Regan, “Iesi: Seneca Meadows,” Global Infrastructure Magazine, 3 September 2019.

[9] Jarret Murphy, “Life near a Landfill: The Towns and People Who End up with NYC Trash,” City Limits, 4 February 2017.

[10] “Environmental News”. Seneca County NY Democratic Committee. 9 February, 2022.,member%20Seneca%20Falls%20town%20board.

[11] United States Census Bureau. ”Staten Island Borough, Richmond County, New York“  United States Census Bureau, 2020.,_Richmond_County,_New_York?g=060XX00US3608570915.

 [12] United States Census Bureau. ”Waterloo, Seneca County, New York” United States Census Bureau, 2020.,_New_York?g=160XX00US3678553.

United States Census Bureau. “Seneca Falls, Seneca County, New York.” United States Census Bureau, 2020.,_New_York?g=160XX00US3666322

[13] EPA, “EJ Screen Map Descriptions”, Environmental Protection Agency, 3 January, 2024,

[14] EPA, “EJ Screen Map Descriptions”, Environmental Protection Agency, 3 January, 2024,

[15] New York State Department of Health, ”New York State Cancer Registry Cancer Incidence by Census Tract, 2013-2017“ Seneca County 2017

[16] ”Seneca County Health Profile.” Common Ground Health, n.d.

[17] Peter Mantius. ”Seneca Meadows, NY’s Largest Landfill, Sits in a Disadvantaged Area with High Lung Cancer Rates: Is That a Problem?” Water Front Online Blog, 29 June 2023.

[18] ”Seneca Meadows Landfill’s Environmental Legacy”, Sierra Club, 12 October 2023.,pollution%20control%20structures%2C%20and%20more.

[19] David L. Shaw,Seneca County Supervisors Say ‘no’ to NYC Trash.” Finger Lakes Times, 9 December, 2015.

[20] ”ECONOMIC IMPACT OF VISITORS IN NEW YORK 2019, Finger Lakes Focus. Finger Lakes Region Official Guide, 2019.

[21] David L. Shaw. ”Agreement Would Protect Value of Property near Seneca Meadows.” Finger Lakes Times, 14 August, 2023.

[22] David L. Shaw.Local Law 3 Passes: Seneca Falls Town Board Votes 4-1 to Approve Controversial Landfill Measure.” Finger Lakes Times, 9 December, 2016.

[23] Seneca Meadows, Inc. v. Town of Seneca Falls, 197 A.D.3d 932, 152 N.Y.S.3d 873 (N.Y. App. Div. 2021)

[24] David L. Shaw ”Doyle Decision on Local Law 3-2016 Will Be Appealed.” Finger Lakes Times, 13 June, 2023.

[25] Michael B. Gerrard & Edward McTiernan, ”New York’s Green Amendment: The First Decisions“, N.Y.L.J., 8 March , 2023.

[26] Peter Mantius. ”Seneca Meadows, NY’s Largest Landfill, Sits in a Disadvantaged Area with High Lung Cancer Rates: Is That a Problem?” Water Front Online Blog, 29 June 2023.

[27] David L. Shaw. ”Ferrara Says SMI Leachate Safe; Seneca Lake Guardian Says Prove It.” Finger Lakes Times, 1 February, 2023.

[28] David L. Shaw ”Seneca Meadows Refutes Forum Claims.” Finger Lakes Times, 7 February, 2011.

[29] David L. Shaw ”Tentative Agreement Reached on $3.3B Contract to Bring NYC Trash to Seneca Meadows by Rail.” Finger Lakes Times, 23 November, 2015.

[30] Sarah Taddeo.Seneca Landfill Neighbors: ‘No Trash Train.” Democrat and Chronicle, 13 March, 2016.


Primary Sources:

Title: Seneca Meadows Landfill 
Location:Seneca Meadows Landfill 
Description: The following source is the site of the Seneca Meadows Landfill, providing details with regards to the landfill’s history as well as the sites current operations and plans. In order to understand the attitudes towards the citizens of Seneca Meadows from the landfill itself, and how operations are carried out with the proximity to Waterloo NY. 


Title: Lutz warns Seneca Falls Town Board of lung cancer rates
Location: Finger Lakes Times
Description: The Following is an article reporting a letter sent to the town board regarding the Seneca Meadows Landfill and its effects on neighboring towns and residents. Specifically his concerns are regarding rates of lung cancer which have risen in the years following the closure of fresh kills. This source represents not only the effects of fresh kills as well as the feelings of citizens towards the landfill giving first hand judgment from Bill Lutz.  


Location: Earth Justice Organization
Description: The following source is reporting on New York Cities Budget in terms of its allocation of 141 million dollars to help with waste cleanup in Staten Island to counter the harmful effects from the fresh kills landfill. This will be used to show the comparison of resources allocation towards cleanup between the two communities. 



 Location: New York Times
Description: This source was written by Robert Sullivan, a reporter on environmental issues who bore witness to the dumps closing and then New York Governor Pataki’s comments regarding the matter, one particular quote being “No more Garbage for the people of Staten Island. This source will be used to emphasize the response and feelings toward the issues posed by Fresh Kills and how the issue was given a one sided approach in regards to which communities were focused for cleanup.  


Location: The City of New York Public Archives
Description: This document outlines the planning process for the Park renovation project which will take the spot of the land where the landfill once stood. This outline goes in depth into the planning and execution of the project and shows the efforts being instituted in Staten Island. Understanding what has happened in place of fresh kills in favor of exporting their garbage to areas such as Waterloo will be important in understanding the layout of the situation.

Secondary Sources:

Source: A Descriptive Study of Cancer and Other Health Outcomes Around the Former Fresh Kills Landfill, Staten Island, January 2020. 


Description: This source contains a collection of studies conducted by the NYC Health Department with the purpose of investigating and identifying potential connections between living near the landfill and health issues. The health issues which are the result of toxic waste build up and pollution includes respiratory diseases as well as cancer. Within this study cancer rates as well as other medical markers such as hospitalizations are compared between residents in Staten Island living close to the fresh kill landfill to other citizens in New York with further distance. In order to address the disparate response to pollution and the consequences of the fresh kills landfill, it is important to understand what the pollution was in the first place. This source coupled with data regarding residents of Carteret New Jersey which is just East to the Landfill will give context for the health concerns both areas face due to the landfill. Furthermore, comparing it to more recent data will provide an answer as to how the two areas have improved since the removal of the landfill and what residual effects still remain.  


Source: Videras, Julio, and Christopher J. Bordoni. “Ethnic Heterogeneity and the Enforcement of Environmental Regulation.” Review of social economy 64, no. 4 (2006): 539–562.


Description: The following source looks at the relationship between the enforcement of administrative environmental regulations and community characteristics such as ethnic diversity within New York and New Jersey. The source makes a number of important findings regarding how the percentage of a non white population correlates to the strength of administrative penalties imposed on environmental violators. In a statistically significant number of cases fines assessed to violators of environmental regulations in areas of higher minority populations faced far less penalties then violators in white neighborhoods. This study will be very important in showing the larger issue as seen with fresh kills landfill. Staten Island contains a higher caucasian population then neighboring Carteret which holds a significant Hispanic Population. Simultaneously both these communities have had a disparate response to the effects of the fresh kills landfill as I will examine in this paper. 


Source: Thompson, Katherine. “The Grim Reality Hidden beneath Freshkills Park’s Bright Facade.” The Grim Reality Hidden Beneath Freshkills Park’s Bright Facade | Writing Program, n.d. 


Description: The following source is a publication on behalf of the Boston University Arts & Sciences Writing Program by Katherine Thompson. In this publication, Thompson comments on the current state of the Fresh Kills Landfill which has since been turned into a park for the residents of Staten Island. She makes note about how urban planning projects such as this, can bury controversial pasts as well as current ongoing issues proving to be more detrimental in the long term escape of this. While the damage that has been done by the landfills remains apparent, a park such as Fresh Kills has a disparate benefit in terms of social and economic benefits to only particular communities affected by the landfill while others still wrestle with the environmental effects of this pollution. This source raises a number of questions in terms of the responsibility held towards repairing environmental harm? What constitutes repairing harm while what else is a band aid? As well as who is owed the reparations from an environmental disaster. 


Source: Sullivan, Robert, and Jade Doskow. “How the World’s Largest Garbage Dump Evolved into a Green Oasis.” The New York Times, August 14, 2020. 


Description: This source was written by Robert Sullivan, a reporter on environmental issues who bore witness to the dumps closing and then New York Governor Pataki’s comments regarding the matter, one particular quote being “No more Garbage for the people of Staten Island.” As a reporter around the environmental scene and fresh kills in particular, Sullivan gives analysis on how the political climate within New York and Staten Island in particular around the landfill had an immersive effect on the landfills closure and plans around it. This source will be used to emphasize the response and feelings toward the issues posed by Fresh Kills. More specifically how specific categories of voters and demographics felt regarding the matter. This article also demonstrates how the response to this cleanup was a largely one sided approach in regards to which communities were focused for the cleanup.  


Source: Sze, Julie. 2006. Noxious New York. MIT Press. Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice book summary

Description: The following source is a book written by Julie Sze which delves into the disproportionate impact of urban environmental problems on racial minority and low-income communities, highlighting the concept of environmental justice. This book focuses on environmental justice activism in New York City, and traces the history of activism in response to economic decline and the concentration of harmful facilities like incinerators, waste transfer stations, and power plants. The book explores how local campaigns emerged around issues such as asthma, waste management, and energy systems, framed within the discourse of environmental justice. Sze also examines the historical context of urban planning and public health initiatives in New York City, dating back to the nineteenth century’s sanitation movement. Additionally, she analyzes the influence of race, family, and gender politics on activism, particularly regarding asthma advocacy and responses to garbage privatization and energy deregulation.  This source will be helpful in identifying common trends regarding the environmental justice that can be seen following the closure of Fresh Kills Landfill putting the situation in Carteret and Staten Island in context of the larger movement.

Image Analysis:

The following image was published on Popular Science and was drawn by one of their contributors Molika Ashford, a freelance reporter who publishes for a variety of science x political focused websites and publications. Her work typically centers around environmental issues and global warming. This image was published in 2008, the first year in which construction on the previous area making up the Fresh Kills Landfill was started. This was also two years after the New York Department of Sanitation released its waste management plan regarding plans following the closure of fresh kills park. My environmental justice view is that of Waterloo/ Seneca Falls NY which is one of the areas this image alludes to as suffering as a result of the fresh kills closure, as they have had to bear the brunt of the waste from NY which needed a new place to go once fresh kills closed. The image emphasizes one of my overall messages in that the city of New York has chosen a “band aid” cover up for dealing with its waste production. 

There is an emphasis in the first couple of images regarding the magnitude of the landfill being the “largest” with a truck overfilling as it enters the Landfills space. On top of that you can see a woman in the second slide struggling to fit garbage bags into the bin outside her residence as the street is overflowing with bags. This imagery is very popular with that of New York asd other big cities as issues with waste management and such a largely dense population can lead to this overflow effect. 

 Furthermore the negative effects of this waste is demonstrated using darker imagery. The waste in the trucks from the city is black across a cleaner landscape. In the construction of the park, the dark waste is emphasized to be capped off away from the public so as to not disturb the public. Garbage does not disappear as easily as many people might think and don’t recognize that landfills in particular build up over many years to a point where the waste is required. 

The image has multiple goals and messages of which it is trying to emphasize along with the magnitude of Fresh Kills and amount of trash New York is producing. The image depicts side by side a beautifully constructed park with bridges and informative signs giving information about the landscape side by side with the image of trucks. This emphasizes the impressive construction of the park and extensive planning to repair the damaged area while simultaneously emphasizing that the trash is now going somewhere else. In the last slide we see a line of garbage trucks overflowing with waste leaving the city’s borders in order to take routes leading upstate and to other states’ landfills all while bearing the emblems of New York City. While the residents of Staten Island watch as a multi million dollar project is undergone to repair the damage their trash once caused, that same trash is conjunctively being shipped off to other landfills in NY as well as other states to cause the same damage and harm as it did in Fresh Kills. 

This political cartoon is just one part of the active movement following Fresh Kills closure and New York’s plans with regards to waste. While the plan for Fresh Kills park is a significant environmental project that will help repair the damage once caused, by continuing to use landfills to handle its extensive volume of trash, the city of NY is being negligent to surrounding areas as the problems faced by Fresh Kills are once again shifted.


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