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Pop-Up Forest Campaign to Transform Times Square Into a Nature Exhibit

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By Bonnie Hulkower

"If a forest can make it in Times Square, it can make it anywhere." This twist on Sinatra's iconic lyrics is how Brooklyn-based urban botanist Marielle Anzelone wraps up the video pitch for her Kickstarter campaign to raise funds towards installing a pop-up forest in Times Square.

Anzelone wants to transform a public plaza in Times Square into a large-scale temporary nature exhibit: think a literally live, interactive diorama -- complete with local trees, ferns, grasses and wildflowers, that you can walk through -- located right in the midst of the giant billboards and Broadway's theater marquees.

A passionate conservation biologist, public policy lobbyist and TED talker, Anzelone is on a mission to use the pop-up forest to raise awareness about preserving biodiversity, particularly the local New York City flora and fauna. The exhibit will be a means to experientially inspire and educate New Yorkers and the world about saving forests from falling to development plans, how doing so warrants as much focus and action as a social issue as climate change, and that actually "saving forests helps prevent climate change."

Anzelone has chosen the epicenter of the ultimate urban landscape as her platform to call out to the world while giving New Yorkers and visitors an opportunity to "feel the richness of nature" by wandering a full-scale replica of an actual meandering forest path in Inwood Hill Park on the Northern tip of Manhattan island, including a live stream of wildlife sounds from the actual forest being piped into the pop-up version. The exhibit will be fully enclosed, muffling street noise and using an LED screen as its sky-ceiling.The Kickstarter campaign, which ends today, has the goal of raising funds for a prototype pop-up in Brooklyn this summer. The funds will also be used to hire a landscape design firm to create architectural drawings of the full-scale project, with the aim of garnering subsequent funding from local politicians, companies and foundations that have already expressed interest.

Marielle Anzelone's inspiration came from her seeing a Monarch butterfly flying around 8th Avenue and 34th Street. If all goes as planned, Anzelone's project will create a temporary "Miracle on 34th Street" in the form of a home for the Monarch and some of her butterfly friends, a few blocks uptown, at least for a little while.

The PopUp Forest is planned to appear for three weeks in June 2016 and then to disappear, with pieces of the forest dispersed across parks, tree pits and school yards across the City.

Image credit: Marielle Anzelone

Bonnie is an environmental planner. She has a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently her work focuses on ensuring that affordable housing and community development projects comply with environmental regulations.

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