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Soil sample on a labeled card with a trowel, alongside notes and a coin for scale.
Field soils investigation site

NYC Urban Soils Institute & NYC Soil Survey

Partnerships are at the foundation of the District's urban soils program, which began with the NYC Soil Survey in the 90's.  Now the District is taking the NYC Soil Survey a step further to create the nation's first Urban Soils Institute, which will build on the existing partnerships and expand to include all stakeholders.

NYC Urban Soils Institute

The New York City Soil & Water Conservation District, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Brooklyn College have formed a partnership to establish the New York City Urban Soils Institute (USI).

The mission of the New York City Urban Soils Institute is to advance the scientific understanding and promote the sustainable use of urban soils through education, conservation, and research. 

The USI achieves its mission through:

  • Soils Testing and Technical Servicessoil testing, interpretation, and other technical services
  • Education & OutreachA wide range of soil science and conservation training opportunities
  • Data DepositoryA platform for soils data storing and sharing for New York City
  • Research: Coordination of an urban soil science research agenda for the City

The partnership of Brooklyn College, NRCS and the District has spearheaded this initiative and established in 2014 a technical advisory committee to solicit input from stakeholders. For more information, visit the USI website. 

Visit USI Website

NYC Soil Survey Partnership

NYC Soil Survey is a partnership between the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the District.

In mid-1990’s NRCS realized that New York City needed a comprehensive urban soil survey addressing the unique characteristics of urban soils as well as the specialized needs of urban residents. The agency entered into a formal agreement with the District to conduct the soil survey.  The partnership completed the first urban soil survey in the country - a detailed soil map of South Latourette Park, Staten Island, in 1997.

The partnership has completed several soil surveys since then.  They are available for download. 

New York City Soil Survey Available on Web Soil Survey

A true milestone in soil survey occurred in June 2014 with the posting of the soil maps of the five boroughs that encompass New York City to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Web Soil Survey. The soil survey provides the 8 million plus residents of New York City with a state of the art modern urban soil survey to use for planning and interpretations for the present and well into the future. The 1:12,000 scale soil map covers 235,945 acres and has a minimum size delineation of 1.5 Acres.New York City has approximately 27 percent open space and this is where the majority of the field investigations were conducted. 70 soil series were identified in the survey; 32 of which were developed in human transported materials (HTM) and 38 in naturally occurring parent materials (glacial till, outwash, etc.). Over 100 soil profiles were sampled and analyzed for complete characterization by the USDA-NRCS Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory. The soils of the city exhibit a wide range of physical, chemical and mineralogical properties in both the natural and anthropogenic soils.

The soil survey was truly a cooperative effort between NRCS, New York City Soil and Water Conservation District, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn College and many others.

In addition to providing a unique valuable resource inventory, information from the survey has useful applications for storm water management, restoration efforts, park and open space management, and urban soil education. With the expected growth of urban populations in the future, the importance of urban soil surveys for planning will only increase; the New York City Soil Survey provides a model of how soil survey can meet the needs of our changing world in the 21st Century.