On the western edge of Staten Island is the hamlet of Travis, population of approximately 2,000. Travis exudes small-town America, a hidden spot tucked away from the teeming city. The children of Travis yell and play on the streets amid small ranch houses. A large butte rises several hundred feet above the town, covered in green grass, surrounded by a small swamp, dotted by trees. Blackbirds glide in gusts of wind along its face. The hill looming over the town is a reminder of the days when this was the final destination of New York City’s millions of tons of trash.
Ten years ago, the Travis mound was part of the Fresh Kills Landfill—at 2,200 acres, the largest landfill in the world at that time—the place where most, if not all, of the garbage of the city went. The landfill is composed of four main mounds, which range from 90 to 225 feet. The biggest mound is taller than the Statue of Liberty and can be seen by the naked eye from space. When the dump was open, the garbage produced a noxious, rotting stench that fouled the air of Staten Island.
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