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Home of Closed Landfill Now Aims for Smell of Fine Wine

Business leaders on Staten Island, in New York City, plan for an educational vineyard. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

For years, most of the household waste collected in America's largest city went to a landfill on Staten Island. Staten Island is one of the five boroughs that form the city of New York. The others are the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

The landfill closed in two thousand one. Now, local leaders hope Staten Island will become known for something else: fine wines. Officials expect to break ground before summer for the Tuscan Garden Vineyard Project. Wine grapes will be planted on most of one hectare in the Staten Island Botanical Garden.

Borough President James Molinaro has set aside one and one-half million dollars for the vineyard. Officials say the project will be educational and nonprofit. It will demonstrate the process of growing grapes and making wine.

It could bring visitors who now ride the Staten Island ferry from Manhattan just to see the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Organizers say the climate is similar to other winemaking areas of New York State, like the Finger Lakes area and Long Island. For years, people have suggested that Staten Island should have a vineyard.

Several years ago, four business leaders decided to do something about it. They formed the Founders’ Group. One of them, Henry Salmon, recalls growing grapes on a friend’s farm while growing up on Staten Island.

Last November, to get ideas, the group went to Italy. They visited a winemaking town in Tuscany. Crespina, with about four thousand people, became a sister city to Staten Island. And Tuscan winemaker Piergiorgio Castellani became a technical adviser to the project.

Advice has also come from others, including experts at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the University of Pisa in Italy. The grapes chosen for the Staten Island climate and soil include cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese.

Plans call for two thousand vines on land that Henry Salmon says was once used for a retirement home for sailors.

The vineyard will be organic. No chemical pesticides will be used. Compost made from leaves and other organic material collected from city parks will serve as fertilizer.

If all goes well, the Tuscan Garden Vineyard Project on Staten Island should have its first wines ready in a few years. The wine will not be sold. Plans call for using it at tastings and special events.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Bob Doughty.