The Landfill Project

The Landfill Project aims to bring local residents together with a diverse group of experts and artists to understand and imagine the potential of the Edgemere site. New York City’s legacy landfills were sited to obscure their environmental and community impacts. By capping landfills like Edgemere, the City may have turned a negative influence into, at best, a net neutral. With the residents as direct partners we intend to explore strategies to create a positive impact for Edgemere.
Edgemere Landfill, a former municipal dump in the Rockaways, Queens, has been closed for over 20 years. The landfill operated as a disposal site from 1938 to 1991, receiving about 1200 tons of waste per day. Today, Edgemere landfill is capped and is at the end of remedia­tion process that converted the dump into a spectacular, and yet unused, 173-acre site of­fering views of Jamaica Bay and the Manhattan skyline. The land is facing an as-yet-undeter­mined future. Its location in one of the most vulnerable – both environmentally and socially – areas of New York City suggests the great potential impact of the choice, that will define its future.

The Landfill Project is a collaboration among Elliott Maltby, Simon Kates, Sonya Gimon, Martha Willson, Alejandra Gomez Bolivar, Ruyun Xiao and Rockaway Waterfront Alliance;

The project is supported by Taconic Fellowship offered by Pratt Center for Community Development.

Website by Svetlana Kuzmenko.

Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is a community-based organization dedicated to empowering residents of underserved communities in the Rockaways to play a role in the determination of their neighborhoods. RWA provides enriching education and community programming, which instill both individual and civic respect for nature, and contribute to advancing the physical, economic and social sustainability in the Rockaway Peninsula.

In 2016, RWA completed renovation of the former FDNY Company 265 Firehouse located at Beach 59th St & Rockaway Beach Blvd into RISE: Rockaway Institute for Sustainable Environment; a center for community- based programs and collaboration focused on environmental concerns in the region including the environmental, economic, physical health and well being of the local Rockaway community.


While all of the members of our team represent different professions, they all share an interest and experience in bringing arts, science and urban design together as a way to create change. Many of their projects are site-based, often sites that have an ambiguous reputation or are at the periphery of the urban design conversation. Their interests range from cemeteries as new urban green spaces; city fortification water systems as catalysts for contemporary culture; to the use of abandoned ocean shores. These site are linked: natural or human-made landforms that are struggling to find their place in the contemporary city. Often, because of the lack of un­derstanding of their potential use, they stay neglected, commemorating certain aspects of human heritage.

Landfill is another of this type of landform, created by humans for the simple purpose to discard unwanted material - one that stands today as a monument to society’s inability to plan for the longterm. The complex nature of the landfill requires a complex multi-disci­plinary range of answers: our team brings together arts, architecture and communi­ty-based planning.
Sonya Gimon is an urban designer and curator. She has organized and led multiple workshops, exhibitions, walks and other activities involving local residents, city officials, artists and professionals with an aim of rethinking the surrounding environment. Trained as an art historian and having worked as both an urban designer and art curator, she believes in applying the bold power of artistic practices to urban design. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s Sustainable Environmental Systems MS program.

Alejandra Gomez Bolivar is a Colombian architect, highly interested in community service and improving quality of life in the cities. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia after completing her Master’s degree in Urban Placemaking and Management at Pratt Institute in New York City. Alejandra had a chance to travel, work, and study in different countries and learn from different cultures, people, and experiences. Her main goal as a professional is to enlarge the multicultural knowledge and contribute to making cities more equitable and inclusive through community-based planning and public participation

Simon Kates has a background in both architecture and urban planning and is currently an Associate at BFJ Planning, where he has developed a specialty in planning for resilience and sustainability, waterfronts, and comprehensive plans. His recent professional work has included post-Hurricane Sandy resilience plans, development of an industrial Business Improvement District in Queens, and land use and zoning consulting services to public-sector clients. Prior to joining BFJ, he worked on the creation and management of energy efficiency incentive programs and conducted research on the impact of waterfront industrial regulations on adjacent residential communities.

Elliott Maltby is a founding partner of thread collective and a professor in Pratt’s Planning and Sustainable Environmental Systems programs. She believes that art and design can improve the sustainability and vitality of the urban experiment, and is interested in how communities co-opt and transform derelict and peripheral landscapes. Trained as a landscape architect, Elliott has a long worked closely with artists and scientists; the Gowanus Field Stations were shaped by an ongoing dialogue with ichthyologist and author John Waldman. With choreographer Jennifer Monson, she is developing an innovative cross-disciplinary collaboration platform for researching urban ecologies, using the body as an instrument.

Martha Wilson is an artist and founder of Franklin Furnace. Its mission is to present, preserve, interpret, proselytize and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, cultural bias, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content. Franklin Furnace is dedicated to serving artists by providing both physical and virtual venues for the presentation of time-based art, including but not limited to artists' books and periodicals, installation art, performance art, and unforeseen contemporary avant-garde artforms; and to undertake other activities related to these purposes. In 2014, Franklin Furnace organized a city wide exhibition, “inClimate: Climate Change Solutions, Awareness and Action.” Through artistic interventions, it aimed to highlight the need for actions related to climate change, specifically in the underserved communities of New York City. This project is an outgrowth of the exhibition.

Ruyun Xiao is a designer from China, based in New York. Her practice focuses on communication of cultural and nature issues in graphic and spatial manner. She has been engaging in research projects about activism art, ecology and epistemology studies through the lens of curation and design. Her works engage both physical and digital material to present the complexity of the subject matter. She has recently graduated from Pratt Communications Design MFA program. Her thesis research is critiquing the cultural institution capitalism foundation and the exploitation of environment and epistemology of nature.