A PopUP Forest in Manhattan!!??

There might be two artist-initiated forests in Manhattan, but they could not be more different in terms of their concepts and methods.

Alan Sonfist's Time Landscape provides an opportunity for native plant and tree specimens to evolve without human interference in perpetuity. In contrast, if Marielle Anzelone fulfills her vision, the "PopUP Forest: Times Square" she has proposed will disappear three weeks after its sudden appearance, leaving behind the memory of a bizarre anomoly, effluents from the fuels combusted to realize it, the depleted forest that provided the temporary botanical specimens, and exorbitant bills (the cost is estimated at $1.7 million).

Anzelone promises that her project "will give visitors an immersive natural area experience in the most un-natural place on the planet. In the middle of the night, we'll transform a public plaza in Times Square into a large-scale temporary nature installation. Towering trees, native wildflowers, and ferns underfoot will bring a piece of wilderness to the heart of Manhattan.

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. Then - after three weeks - it will all disappear. Reaching our goal of $25,000 will fund the critical first steps of this project. The Kickstarter funding will empower us with very basic design, marketing and outreach materials and a small-scale prototype to help us move toward securing the estimated $1.7 million cost of PopUP Forest."

One gets the impression that Anzelone has cast the botanicals in the roles of aspiring starlets awaiting their debut on Broadway.

A few comments from me, a bewildered reader:

a. Achieving an “immersive natural area experience” is not accomplished merely by the addition of botanicals. It would require a major subtraction effort as well, eradicating subway entrances, LED advertisements, asphalt streets, concrete sidewalks, towering buildings, traffic signals, cars, buses, trucks, garbage, smog, grime, street lights, sewers, and urban noises, smells, and sounds. 

b.“In the middle of the night”: This action cannot be a clandestine activity. Before this momentous night,  permits and permissions will need to be assembles from dozens of officials, volunteers, consultants, legal advisers, traffic authorities, sanitation workers, union officials, insurance agents, etc.

c. “Nature installation” is an oxymoron. The words ‘nature’ and ‘installation’ are self-contradictory because nature evolves as multiferous populations respond to ever-changing and unpredicatable surrounding conditions, while installations are pre-conceived constructions.

d. “Towering trees”: Few trees will appear ‘towering’ beside 80 story high rises. Furthermore, what is ‘towering’ about these tree is the cost of energy expended to give urbanites their brief encounter with nature? Healthy trees, evidently, will be dug out by their roots, wrapped and transported to an alien site. Presumably, the display is designed to last for three weeks because that is the length of time before death overtakes the installation and it is stripped of leaves and flowers.
Towering trees cannot be re-planted. They will be sacrificed for a 3-week art project.

e. Once “native wildflowers”are no longer native to Manhattan because the habitat has been transformed by noise, clutter, paving, development, etc. Returning these flowers to their ancestral origins does not entail returning them ‘home’.

f. “Ferns underfoot”: Thousands of pedestrians feet will trample these ferns into oblivion.

g. “Wilderness”: This version of ‘wilderness’ is only worthy of a theme park. It is not even a simulation, but we might wish it was a simulation in plastic. Then vital living trees and plants would not be sacrificed for the sake of a mistaken impression. Wilderness is the product of manifold generations of multiple species developing in the absence of human influence.

h. “migrating birds and pollinating insects” are not likely to discover this sudden oasis in the few weeks it will exist. But if they did, this cannot be considered a success because this new source of sustenance is scheduled to be as suddenly revoked.

i.”$1.7 million cost of PopUP Forest”  A great many saplings could be planted for this sum of money. They would make long-term and significant improvements in the quality of air, water sequestation, temperature modulation, and wildlife habitat expansion.

While I admit that there are a lot of people in Manhattan who would like a forest to come to them, because they are not able to go to the forest, from an ecology point of view, this project is folly!