The transformation of urban blight into parks and greenways in the past few decades has turned many abandoned city blocks, rusting structures and landfills into pleasant go-to places. New York City’s High Line was an abandoned elevated train track until community organizers lobbied for its preservation and then, in partnership with the City of New York, transformed it into a meandering urban park that opened in 2009. The High Line has now become such a popular tourist destination that some residents are exasperated about excessive tourist traffic.
On a more positive note, the renovation of the High Line has inspired other communities to turn deserted transportation lines into parks with walkways and bike paths. A recent study indeed links more trees with lower crime rates in Philadelphia: researchers from Temple University write that “maintained greenery encourages social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, as well the calming effect that vegetated landscapes may impart, thus reducing psychological precursors to violent acts.”
While it’s not entirely certain if the presence of trees and vegetation reduces crime, there’s no question that it’s more than welcoming to see parks and wildlife preserves where urban blight once existed. Here are ten examples of such “greened” up spots around the world:
1. Albany Bulb
This former landfill operated by the city of Albany in northern California now has a sandy beach, is home to wildlife including songbirds and offers a view of the Golden Gate Bridge across the bay. It still contains an encampment with a fluctuating population of residents and art created from detritus like that of sculptures of the now-gone Emeryville Mud Flats.
Photo by Josh Hawley/Flickr.
2. Bastion Theresia Timisoara in Romania
The Bastion was an 18-century fortress that was left empty for decades in the center of the city of Timisoara. It has been redesigned into a park with bicycle paths and a community center. The architecture firm that renovated the Bastion used materials that would “age nicely” — namely, “copper-sheets, wooden carpentry with non-ferous metallic inserts, plasters and paints based on lime, as well as metal structures easy to eliminate.”
Photo by Goliath/Wikimedia Commons.
3. Bukit Tagar Landfill in Malaysia
Bukit Tagar is still a working landfill, but is described as a “sanitary” one that that uses natural resources such as reed beds in its purification system and for absorbing leachate, the liquid that drains from stockpiled materials which often contains concentrations of chemicals and other substances. The Bukit Tagar landfill is actually home to many tropical birds and is designed to produce renewable energy via a “comprehensive landfill gas (LFG) management strategy” and also by developing solar power.
Photo of wildlife in Selangor via Peter Gronemann/Wikimedia Commons
4. Chambers Gully in suburban Adelaide
Once a local landfill, Chambers Gully is now a wildlife haven and a home for koala bears. While many of the parks and places listed here were funded by governments, the Chambers Gully is unique in that it was reclaimed and created almost entirely by volunteers.
Video from YouTube
5. The Delancey Underground
Efforts are underway to create an underground equivalent to the High Line in New York City. In the early 20th century, trolleys ran underground between the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. Preservationists hope to turn the 1.5 acres of terminal where the trolley cars were turned around into an urban “lowline” space that would use “remote skylight” technology to filter light via an optical system and fiber cables.
Video from YouTube
6. The Harsimus Stem Embankment in New Jersey
Rising up amid public housing in Jersey City and near the New Jersey Turnpike, the Harsimus Stem Embankment is a stone structure that once linked the seven tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Hudson River Waterfront. Jersey City has not yet approved plans to turn it into one of a series of parks in a “county with a severe park deficit.” In its current state, the Embankment provides a much-needed stretch of nature, oxygenating “air compromised by local and Holland-Tunnel traffic” and also serving as a stopping point for monarch butterflies migrating between Canada and Mexico.
Photo by Jim.henderson/Wikimedia Commons
7. Hiriya Landfill / Ayalon Park in Israel
Located south of Tel Aviv, Hiriya is the largest landfill in the Middle East and looks like a large, flat-topped mountain when seen from above. Since 2001, it has been the site of a naturalization process that, it is planned, will transform it into Ayalon Park — which would be one of the world’s largest urban parks — by 2020.
Video from YouTube
8. Millennium Park in Boston
This former landfill was shut down in 1994 and opened as a 100 acre park with six miles of trails in 2000. It also offers excellent views of the city of Boston, which has indeed been named one of the greenest cities in the U.S.. More recently, attempts began to restore wetlands habitats at the park’s edges.
Video from YouTube
9. Sai Tso Wan in Hong Kong
Sai Tso Wan is the first of the city’s parks to be built over its waste; it has playgrounds, athletic areas and also is home to wind turbines and a rainwater collection system. Waste is a huge issue in densely populated Hong Kong — the government expects its existing landfills to be filled by 2015 — and transforming wastelands into useful sites for its many residents is essential.
Photo by minghong/Flickr.
10. Tempelhof Park in Berlin
After being abandoned in 2008, Tempelhof Airport has become a park, with its runways and other massive spaces now used for biking and kiting. It also contains the Stadtteilgarten Schillerkiez community gardens, providing residents of Berlin with a place to grow their own vegetables (in movable raised beds with fresh earth, due to possible contamination from the soil).
Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr.
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Photo of the High Line by joevare/Flickr