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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

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Public Health, Well-being, and Urban Livability

Memorial tree dedication in Long Island City.

These projects explore the nexus between the natural environment and human health and well-being, asking: How can urban greening be managed and understood as a tool for improving quality of life?

The Urban Field Station staff:

[bulleted item] Are collaborating with Patrick Hurley of Ursinus College and NRS social scientist Marla Emery to conduct research on urban foraging in New York City. Interviews with foragers have documented dozens of species of plants and fungi being gathered in spaces that include cemeteries, public rights of way, and parks. Motivations for foraging range from perceived healthfulness and enjoyment of special flavors to the need to fill out meager food budgets. Implication for urban green space policy and management include urban forest composition, public health, sustainability, and stewardship.

[bulleted item] Collaborated with public health researchers to study Cultivating Health and Well-Being through Environmental Stewardship, publishing an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health.

[bulleted item] Began collaborative research projects with Freshkills Park, which is currently the largest landfill to park conversion in the world. With the help of Urban Field Station and Freshkills staff, David Klenosky of Purdue University is leading a large scale quantitative assessment of Staten Island residents' attitudes towards the park entitled, "Attitudes Towards and Intentions to Visit Freshkills Park." Another project, "Legacies of the Dump," is a qualitative research project coordinated locally by Urban Field Station and Freshkills Park staff, using focus groups to understand Staten Island residents' memories of the landfill and their perceptions, fears, and interests in using the future Freshkills Park.

[bulleted item] Advised NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability as it develops indicators to gauge the City's progress on the 127 sustainability initiatives encompassed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 . Forest Service researchers from three different NRS units advised the Mayor's Office, along with NYC DPR partners, on metrics related to urban forestry, air quality, water quality, environmental stewardship, human health, and neighborhood quality of life.

Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes[bulleted item] Developed the edited volume Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-being through Urban Landscapes. This volume is a joint endeavor of Meristem and NRS that builds from a conference Meristem organized in 2007 at the New York Academy of Medicine, exploring the relationships between human health, well-being, and the urban landscape. This volume documents some of the most compelling practices and principles that are currently utilized to create restorative commons – either as small-scale experiments or as larger efforts to “institutionalize innovation”. It includes academic writing of researchers in the fields of medical history, evolutionary biology, and urban planning. And it couples this writing with practitioners’ experiential knowledge presented as essays, thought pieces, and interviews. The observations of practitioners and writings of theorists echo each other’s recognition of the primacy of citizen stewardship and creative design in developing new health-promoting environments. The book is now available and can be ordered from our web site.

[bulleted item] Initiated Harlem Healthshed Project to integrate public health, biophysical, and social data in a virtual library and to create an urban trail, in partnership with EPA Region 2

[bulleted item] Conducted four year research project on the role of trees and open space in collective resilience after a disaster. The Living Memorials Project documented and investigated over 700 memorials nationwide, and findings were synthesized in reports, presentations, and a multimedia DVD.

[bulleted item] Created a Memorandum of Understanding with Voices of September 11th to continue to conduct collaborative research and documentation of 9/11 living memorials nationwide.

[bulleted item] Developed public exhibition Land-Markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials that was on display at the National Park Service’s Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street, with exposure to approximately 200 visitors/day for 3 weeks.  The exhibit was incorporated in the curriculum of 500 undergraduate freshmen at Parsons “The New School for Design”.   It also traveled to the Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in April 2007.  It will be a part of the September 11 display at the Connecticut Historical Society in September 2007.  The exhibit is available free for public use.

Last Modified: 07/08/2013

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Living Memorials Project

[image:] Thumbnail image of Living Memorials Project website home page
Because of the overwhelming desire to honor and memorialize the tragic losses that occurred on September 11, 2001 (9-11) the United States Congress asked the USDA Forest Service to create the Living Memorials Project (LMP). The Northern Research Station conducted an open and participatory social and site assessment of public spaces that have been created, used, or enhanced in memory of this tragic event.


Listen to a webcast - Living Memorials Project Update by Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Campbell (September 2006)

Land-Markings DVD

Cover image from Land-Markings DVDThe Land-Markings DVD and catalog are available free to the public as a resource to inspire reflection, response, and debate.

Order a free copy.