Current forest restoration practices for New York City’s (NYC) MillionTreesNYC Initiative on public parkland include site preparation with extensive invasive species removal and tree and shrub planting with the goal of creating new multi-layered forests. We have launched a long-term investigation of these sites in order to understand the primary physical, chemical, and biological responses of urban ecosystems to MillionTreesNYC forest restoration practices. This research will examine high and low diversity tree and understory planting combinations in permanent experimental forest restoration plots across NYC. The study assesses how the interactions between soil heterogeneity, plant population dynamics, and forest restoration management strategies drive urban forest ecosystem structure and functioning. Working in collaboration with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) and the MillionTreesNYC tree planting campaign, we are examining different restoration strategies to assess how restoration practices affect the ecological development trajectories of newly established forests in NYC.