Flavour of the month just a load of rubbish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2007, 12:00am

New York

It's no secret the five boroughs of New York are more intense rivals than loving siblings. They often have to compete for attention and funds from the city. And the favoured older son, Manhattan, is always resented by the others. But sometimes the outer boroughs have surprisingly thin skin, betraying deep insecurities.

Earlier this month, James Molinaro, Staten Island's borough president, carried a letter on his website urging residents to boycott a flavour specially designed for the borough by 5 Boroughs Ice Cream. He did not object to the taste - brownie, fudge, cherry and crunch fused in a vanilla base - but rather the name, 'Staten Island Landfill', which he said was 'insulting and derogatory'.

The name takes its cue from a history many people would prefer to forget. Until 2001, Staten Island was the site of the world's largest landfill - the dumping ground for a lot of the city's rubbish for a half century. The garbage mounds at Fresh Kills - a name that hardly adds to the appeal but is actually derived from the Dutch for fresh stream - sprawled across 890 hectares and rose 68 metres, making them taller than the Statue of Liberty and visible from outer space.

For the generation that grew up on the island in the second half of the last century, the landfill could not be ignored, especially the odour.

'It was so bad. Even if you had double layered windows, it still seeped in. It's just like you were living in a garbage bin,' said Mary O'Neal, a 22-year resident.

But decades of efforts by elected officials and residents, plus several tough court battles, buried the landfill more than 4 metres under the soil. It is now sealed in unleakable material under the ground, and eulogised by former mayor Rudolph Giuliani: 'Fresh Kills is history. It's dead, dead, gone.'

The current administration of Michael Bloomberg wants to turn the site into a park 21/2 times the size of Central Park.

The producer of the ice cream says the name should be seen as complimentary.

'One could hope they could see it as a pat on the back,' Scott Myles, co-owner of 5 Boroughs Ice Cream told the Staten Island Advance newspaper, 'as a way of saying, 'Hey, you finally closed it, and now it can just be an ice cream flavour'.'

Not everybody agrees. 'Unless you live there or work there, people won't know what Staten Island is like until they get there. If you put an ice cream called landfill, people may not want to get there,' said Jay Anderson, director of services for Staten Island Economic Development.

But Mr Anderson says a boycott might be overreacting. Business development is in full swing and the island's new image may prove resilient. The population jumped 17 per cent from 1990 to 2000, the highest growth rate in New York state.

Real estate is booming as many residents seek out houses at better prices than elsewhere in the city.

For Eileen Connelly, a Staten Islander for 17 years, neither the landfill nor the ice cream named after it is worrying. 'They keep knocking down older houses and building more new ones. There is probably too much development,' she said. 'We don't want the island to be too hot because it will bring rising prices for everything.'



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