Raj Kottamasu: “We haven’t yet totally broached this taboo of reusing waste landscapes”

Raj Kottamasu at Freshkills,  photo ©James Dunham



Narrator: Raj Kottamasu

Interviewer: Katie Fortunato

Date: April 3 2012

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Duration: 1:39:35

Raj Kottamasu worked as the Parks Department’s Arts Programming and Grants Manager for Freshkills Park from 2008 to 2012. As such, he worked to seek grant funding, manage existing grants, and develop an arts profile for the park. After completing a master’s degree in Urban Planning at MIT, Raj moved to New York City to begin working on the Freshkills Park project.

In this interview, he discusses the narrative power of place, the role of parks in cities, and how the Parks Department is working to involve the public in the transformation of Fresh Kills from landfill to public park. The interview highlights the complexities of navigating city and state bureaucracy in order to gain funding for projects, and provides insight into the process of building a park from scratch (or, in the case of Freshkills, trash). Raj discusses the various ways in which the Parks Department has worked to highlight the unique aspects of the park in order to garner public interest. This includes two successful “sneak peak” events in 2010 and 2011 (during which the public could visit the park and engage in some of the activities that the park will offer when it opens) and creating tours of the space and public talks connected to some of the issues connected to Freshkills, such as sustainability, environmentalism, and waste.

Raj discusses the features special to the park, such as its vistas, unique history, focus on sustainability, and opportunities for urban adventuring that are not available in other city parks. One of the aspects that Raj worked on was building up the arts profile of the site, and using the park as a space for public artwork. Raj also discusses the challenges of marketing Freshkills to the public, and incorporating that history into programming and features of the park. Although Raj faced many challenges in seeking funding and navigating bureaucratic channels in order to create events, public art projects, and programming for the site, he reflects at the end of the interview that he, along with the rest of the Freshkills team at the Parks Department, were able to implement programs and make significant progress in the long process of turning Fresh Kills landfill into Freshkills Park.

Raj Kottamasu Interview Transcript

Kottamasu Audio 1 of 5

[audio:http://www.dsnyoralhistoryarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kottamasu-Audio-15.mp3|titles=Kottamasu Audio 1:5]

Kottamasu Audio 2 of 5

[audio:http://www.dsnyoralhistoryarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kottamasu-Audio-251.mp3|titles=Kottamasu Audio 2 of 5]

Kottamasu Audio 3 of 5

[audio:http://www.dsnyoralhistoryarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kottamasu-Audio-35.mp3|titles=Kottamasu Audio 3 of 5]

Kottamasu Audio 4 of 5

[audio:http://www.dsnyoralhistoryarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kottamasu-Audio-45.mp3|titles=Kottamasu Audio 4 of 5]

Kottamasu Audio 5 of 5

[audio:http://www.dsnyoralhistoryarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Kottamasu-Audio-55.mp3|titles=Kottamasu Audio 5:5]

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