LowLine Kickstarter: An Underground Park on NYC’s Lower East Side

Delancy Underground, or the The Lowline, was a 2012 Kickstarter brought forward for the brain child of Dan Barasch and James Ramsey in New York City. The concept is simple – build an underground park for the community! The Kickstarter was started to help transform an abandoned New York City trolley terminal into a vibrant community green space using new solar technology.

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Thankfully, due to the support of many contributors, The Lowline is nearly funded and has made some great headway. In September 2012, they held an exhibition highlighting the creation and research for the process. Throughout 2013, the team worked with education programs and city officials to move forward! The next step is negotiations with the MTA and city, with further support on construction.

The estimate completion of The Lowline is set for 2018!

Want to help? Get involved!

What is the LowLine? Where?

We want to transform an abandoned trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of Manhattan into the world’s first underground park.  It will be a new kind of public space, using solar technology for natural illumination, and cutting edge design to capture and highlight a very special industrial space.

The proposed location is the one-acre former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, just below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The site was opened in 1908 for trolley passengers, but has been unused since 1948 when trolley service was discontinued. Despite six decades of neglect, the space still retains some incredible features, like remnant cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks and vaulted ceilings. It is also directly adjacent to the existing JMZ subway track at the Essex Street subway stop– so park visitors and subway riders would interact daily. This hidden historic site is located in one of the least green areas of New York City— presenting a unique opportunity to reclaim unused space for public good.

 

A park… underground?!?

Ever wonder why there’s so little green space in New York?  There aren’t a lot of empty plots of land just waiting to be turned into new parks. New Yorkers have had to be a little more creative, and must look in unusual places – the High Line, a park built on an old elevated rail trestle, is a great example. 
 
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A few years ago, we learned about a massive unused former trolley terminal in our neighborhood, the Lower East Side. We got to thinking: what if we could build a park– underground– even if the space lacked natural sunlight?  So we explored using fiber optic cables to transfer sunlight below ground– to support the growth of plants and trees.  As we shared this idea with others, people got excited.  “An underground High Line for the Lower East Side,” they’d say.  “Kind of like… a LowLine.”  The nickname stuck. 

 

What is the space like?

This “Delancey Underground” space is quite large, by New York standards: 60,000 square feet, or 1.5 acres — nearly the size of Gramercy Park.  It was built in 1903 as a trolley terminal, for streetcars traveling over the Williamsburg Bridge, and has been out of operation since 1948.  We fell in love with the site because of its architectural details: old cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks, vaulted 20-foot ceilings, and strong steel columns.

Here’s what’s even more exciting: it’s in the heart of the Lower East Side.  Our neighborhood is one of the oldest in the U.S., and has been home to generations of immigrants for centuries.  It is a center of diversity, culture, creativity, and innovation.

Victoria Granden

I enjoy blogging about real estate tips and tricks in my free time.