At least in name, the Lower East Side has come up with a response to Chelsea’s Highline Park: The Lowline. However, this project has the potential to be even more groundbreaking. There is a plan to build an underground park in an abandoned trolley terminal, equipped with “remote skylights” from the street above, with a fiber-optic cable in place to funnel sunlight below. On rainy or grey days the sun’s rays would be supplemented by artificial light. Between the two sources the terminal should receive enough light to keep park-goers happy and even allow plants and trees to grow.
How The New York City Lowline Began
Project co-founders Dan Barasch and James Ramsey first proposed the idea in 2011, and raised over $150,000 on Kickstarter.com (a website dedicated to the financing of projects) shortly after. They felt that the city could make better use of the many abandoned subway tunnels and stations hidden beneath its streets by creating a New York City Lowline.
Once a terminal for streetcars transferring passengers from the Lower East Side to Williamsburg and back, the station was shut down in 1948 and left empty for over six decades, its high vaulted ceilings and cobblestone interior wasted on darkness and vermin.
While not yet a reality, the New York City Lowline has the support of many local politicians and businesses, including the Parks department and the local community board. If this park impacts the neighborhood similarly to how the Highline Park impacted Chelsea, the results could be dramatic. Indeed this is something that Barasch and Ramsey are already counting on. Given the audacity of the project, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.
In September of 2012, a full-sized, working example of Barasch and Ramsey’s technology was set up in a warehouse on Delancey St. “Imagining the New York City Lowline” featured a 30-ft wide solar canopy and plant display that supporters hoped would generate enthusiasm and money for the project. Reactions to the exhibit was extremely positive.