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Seeing the sights in New York is often just a matter of turning the corner. Some museums don't charge admission, either. Here are some of the best free—or nearly free—ways to savor the Big Apple. On Roosevelt Island, explore serene Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.

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Several museum volunteers enthusiastically raked the sandy loam together with bags of compost supplied by the Sanitation Department. The sediment that Dr. Walsh and a dozen volunteers were admiring had been transferred a few days earlier from a construction site in Jamaica, Queens, to the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Park, where it is being used this summer to conduct an agricultural experiment. This month, the PUREsoil NYC program was launched, which in addition to pursuing environmental goals intends to focus on cleaning contaminated community gardens.

Supported by. Every year, between two million and three million tons are carted off to dumps upstate, in Long Island and in New Jersey.

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As sea levels rise, New York needs landfill to build levees to protect neighborhoods that are susceptible to flooding during tidal surges like the one that inundated low-lying areas during Hurricane Sandy. A pilot study published this month showed that clean soil from construction sites can lower exposure to certain common pollutants by 98 percent. Another conference, slated for December, will bring gardeners and researchers together to discuss how to regenerate soils that have been degraded by urbanization. She said that New York is also busy expanding tree pits, putting bio-swales on traffic islands, and removing concrete from some schoolyards and playgrounds to create gardens of native plants.

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Morin applauds the fact that the city is using soil generated at construction sites to regenerate its environment. In the past, material for projects like these was trucked into the city from quarries outside its borders. Moreover, the demand for soil within the five boroughs has never been greater. An Urban Soils Symposium was held at the New York Botanical Garden last year, attracting scientists from around the world, who spoke about how city soils can be used to grow more food, improve storm drainage and counter global warming by taking excess carbon out of the atmosphere. The transfer was part of the NYC Clean Soil Banka soil exchange that pairs local builders with environmental restoration projects that need fill materials.

The city’s buried treasure isn’t under the dirt. it is the dirt.

It Is the Dirt. Walsh said.

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Soil is also needed to create new coastal wetlands that can help buffer the impact of future storms. Singer said. And Brooke Singer, the deer in residence at the Hall of Science, was mixing it with her bare hands.

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This is an oversight that the institute hopes to correct in the fall, when a permanent soil museum will open in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. The topsoil of New York City is famously toxic.

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Degraded soils are a big concern in New York, where lead contamination levels can be high. Walsh said, because heavy metal contamination is generally limited to soil surface. Sink a shovel into the ground and you will encounter brick fragments, ceramic pipes, glass shards and other industrial debris.

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The deposits of sand, silt and rounded pebbles dumped by the retreating glacier are to feet deep in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. While the main sources of these pollutants, leaded gasoline and lead-based paint, are now strictly regulated, high levels persist in topsoil and get blown into the air as dust, potentially putting gardeners and children who play in the most contaminated gardens at risk.

But underneath that is some of the richest soil on the continent, dating to the last ice age.

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By Richard Schiffman. While the idea might seem obvious, Dr. Walsh maintains that this is the first soil exchange anywhere in the world that is run by a city government.

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New York City has been leading this reassessment. The most effective way to eliminate the danger from heavy metals, however, is to cap them with clean materials, like those supplied by the NYC Soil Bank. But according to Joshua Cheng, a geologist at Brooklyn College, concealed under several feet of surface rubble are sediments that were laid down by glaciers during the Ice Age. Professor Cheng explained that 20, years ago, the last glacier had advanced as far as what is now New York City.

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Our job is to coordinate the transfer. No longer will they need to pay to send their excavated materials out of town, while worthy environmental projects within the city will be delivered usable soil and sediments to their work sites for free.

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Cheng advises New Yorkers to avoid eating city grown root vegetables and to thoroughly wash greens that lead particles can adhere to like cabbage, lettuce and collard greens. But the rich and clean glacial soil is well below the surface of the city.

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Morin said. Dirt, suddenly, is somewhat glamorous. For much of the 20th century, soil excavated at construction sites was regarded as toxic waste and sent for disposal outside the city.

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At the demonstration project at the Hall of Science, Dr. Walsh ed others who were shoveling the pile of sediment into a cluster of polygon-shaped wooden beds. A study conducted by Professor Cheng in found that 97 percent of the community gardens and backyards that they tested had elevated levels of lead and arsenic.

It is currently being watched by officials from New Orleans and Los Angeles as well as municipalities in Germany, China and Australia, which are considering implementing similar programs. But new research suggests the soil — if you dig deep enough — is a valuable commodity. Recipients of city soil have included a Superfund site in Sunset Park where PCBs polychlorinated biphenyls were removed and replaced with clean soil, and new wetlands that are being created in Queens and Brooklyn.

The museum will be partly tunneled into a cemetery hillside and will feature art fashioned from New York dirt, as well a working soil lab.

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That New York sits atop a trove of potential agricultural materials might surprise anyone who has dug in a backyard or community garden. While air pollution and spoiled waterways are the most visibly threatened environmental resources, the soils that lie beneath our feet have lately been receiving some long overdue attention as well — especially in the New York metropolitan area, which scientists say sits on top of some of the best soil on the continent. Morin urged.

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