Hempstead Town Show National Park Service and NYC How to Turn Environmental Nightmare into Ecological Gem

Hempstead Town’s Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve has become a model for governments around the world. Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and other town officials will now be demonstrating to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the National Park Service how our landfill was transformed into a beautiful nature preserve.

“In Hempstead Town we are extremely proud of our ecological success story,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. “We are thrilled to showcase Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve to other governments who might be considering similar projects.”

The NYC DEP and the National Park Service will be the latest visitors to the preserve as they consider converting the Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue Landfills in Brooklyn into ecologically-sensitive parks facilities. The landfills are owned by the National Park Service, but the New York City DEP is responsible for the post-closure operation, maintenance and monitoring work. Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett Consulting Engineers, which worked with Hempstead Town to design Levy Park, are now providing engineering services to the NYC DEP. More than a dozen representatives from the NYC DEP, National Park Service and Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett are anticipated to participate in the tour.

Once a landfill, Levy Park has been toured by government officials from as far as China and Argentina. The conversion of the former Merrick trash repository into a preserve not only epitomizes the town's commitment to environmental conservation, but saved Hempstead Town taxpayers more than $42 million. The innovative $15 million park plan is substantially less expensive than the $57 million capping and closure plan originally required of the town by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.The award-winning nature preserve, which was opened in 2000, features everything from a kayak launch and fishing pier to 3 miles of walking trails and exercise stations.

Located alongside the Meadowbrook Parkway, the park and preserve's most visible symbol is the fully operational agricultural windmill (situated on the north side of the facility), which is used to circulate the water in two man-made ponds that provide a fresh-water habitat for wildlife. An exciting feature of the park is the kayak launch into the original Meadow Brook. The 52-acre facility also features a 500-foot fishing pier into Merrick Bay.

“In addition to being an environmental masterpiece, Levy Park provides amazing recreational opportunities for local residents,” noted Councilwoman King Sweeney.

In places where disturbance of nature was necessary to cap the landfill, the Town of Hempstead developed woodland and prairie plant communities, similar to the Hempstead Plains, to attract different types of birds. Black locust, poplar, white birch and red cedar are among the types of trees found at Levy Park and Preserve. Additionally, wildlife such as turtles, snakes and foxes are thriving. Hempstead Town has also added a herd of Nigerian dwarf goats to help control overgrowth in an ecologically-sensitive manner.

“One of the unique components of Levy Park is that we were able to reclaim five acres of wetlands,” concluded Murray. “We are happy to encourage and assist NYC DEP and the National Park Service in their efforts to turn an environmental detriment into an ecological triumph, like ours.”