“For fifty percent of people who use New York City’s parks, the only interactions with nature take place in those parks,” she said. “Many of us have this preconceived idea that a city park tides you over between chances to get into rural areas. For many city dwellers, those wilderness experiences just aren’t happening.”
“We need to reconsider the unique experiential benefits of interacting with local nature.”
Charlop-Powers is the executive director and co-founder of the Natural Areas Conservancy
(NAC), a Manhattan-based nonprofit that works to restore and conserve New York’s natural lands. She founded the organization with Bram Gunther
’91 M.E.M., who serves as senior advisor, with the goal of caring for forests, improving the city’s coastlines, and getting more New Yorkers outdoors.
But the organization’s most critical work is just starting to take shape. The NAC conducted the largest baseline assessment of the condition of natural areas of any city in the United States, hiring 25 research scientists for two years to collect data. This led to the development of New York’s Forest Management Framework. The 25-year plan brings all of New York’s forests under a financial model that allows the organization to tie ecological conditions to cost estimates, allowing for goal setting, recommendations, and processes for the city’s entire forest management program.
Charlop-Power’s leadership during this unprecedented effort will be recognized with the Prospect Street Award at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) Reunion Weekend 2018 on Saturday, Oct. 6. The award recognizes a recent F&ES graduate who has made significant contributions to the environmental field and who exemplifies the spirit of the School through demonstrated leadership, innovation, and creativity.
or Charlop-Powers, the NAC has been the perfect outlet to combine her professional background in land use planning, economics, and environmental management. Her career has included seven years managing 15 parks for Scenic Hudson, an environmental organization that protects and promotes public land and parks in the Hudson River Valley, and a turn as a planner for the green real estate planning and development firm Jonathan Rose Companies, where she led a team to develop a new management group for the South Bronx Greenway. Charlop-Powers has also worked as a consultant for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York City Department of Transportation, and the Mohonk Preserve.
Charlop-Powers teamed with Gunther in 2012 to establish the NAC, which was formed from within the city’s Parks Department through a partnership with the Doris Duke Foundation. At the time, the city was in the midst of its Million Trees NYC initiative, an effort to plant one million trees along New York’s streets and within its forested areas.
The initiative, however, was too simplistic. As Charlop-Powers explained to The New York Times in April
, little thought was given to anything “beyond getting trees in the ground” — including a long-term plan for managing the city’s forests and parks.