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A Pop-Up Forest Is Coming To NYC’s Times Square

The wilderness might take back midtown Manhattan, at least for a few weeks.

People go to Times Square to shop at M&M’s World and gawk at surly old men in Elmo costumes. They do not go to observe the flora and fauna–but sometime next summer, they might start.

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A new project gathering steam on Kickstarter aims to create a pop-up forest in the middle of that most famous billboard-laden stretch of midtown Manhattan. The initiative–led by NYC Wildflower Week director and urban ecologist Marielle Anzeloné–would transform Times Square overnight into a temporary wilderness exhibition with native trees, flowers, and ferns.


Here’s what it will feel like, according to the Kickstarter campaign:

The hustle and bustle of Times Square will momentarily slip away with flowering shrubs, mosses, and understory vegetation providing beauty and important sustenance for migrating birds and pollinating insects. The cacophony of street noise will be quieted and replaced by a live stream of wildlife sounds from nearby woods. Visitors’ sensory experiences will be enhanced through guided woodland walks, interpretive signs, and hands-on educational activities for children.

To create a temporary forest, the organizers plan to bring in plants on a caravan of trucks and assemble them overnight in containers that would be overlaid with dirt, leaves, and moss to make the area feel like a natural forest environment. (Times Square isn’t a particularly viable location for long-term tree planting because the subway tunnels are so close to the surface of the street.) “The project is meant to show people that the city/nature divide we all have is a bias that doesn’t really exist. New York City has real forests,” Anzeloné writes in an email to Co.Design. “Even Manhattan has tulip trees that grow wild and are over 100 years old.”

Times Square has already enjoyed a pedestrian-friendly makeover. The pop-up forest would take it to a whole new level, establishing a wild landscape of plants (so popular elsewhere in Manhattan) in what has historically been the city’s least peaceful corner. And though the installation would be temporary, maybe some greenery would make the whole neighborhood a little less aggravating. Maybe local New Yorkers would even want to visit Times Square, rather than avoiding it on principle.

The PopUP Forest: Times Square team is working with the Times Square Alliance to get the project up and running by June 2016, and is looking to raise $25,000 in preliminary funding. So far, the project has raised more than $16,000 on Kickstarter.

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About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.

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