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The Lowline

CONQUERING NEW UNDERGROUND FRONTIERS. Two innovators are attempting to breathe new life into an abandoned trolley terminal. (From the Lowline Website)
CONQUERING NEW UNDERGROUND FRONTIERS. Design renderings from the Lowline team. (From the Lowline website)

At last, it appears that spring has finally arrived in New York City, and not a moment too soon. Many of us feel sun and nature deprived after months of harsh winter weather kept us from going outside to enjoy our favorite parks. But what if we didn’t have to brave brutal temperatures and snow to enjoy a natural urban park?  There is a plan underway to build a park that will provide year-round public access to green space and natural sunlight, operating on the use of solar technology in a one-acre space…only this park will be underground.

In 2009, native New Yorkers James Ramsey and Dan Barasch collaborated over the concept of an underground park and explored the 117-year old historic Williamsburg Bridge underground trolley terminal, which extends east from the Bowery to the Williamsburg Bridge. Although abandoned 67 years ago this month, the terminal looks like it could finally be of use to the city once again, only this time as the world’s first subterranean park.

Photo of historic terminal taken around 1934 when in use. Photo from Columbia University, Joseph Brennan.

 “The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.” – the Lowline Website

In 2012, after much initial planning, Ramsey and Barasch launched a record-breaking fundraising campaign on Kickstarter that collected over $155,000 from over 3,300 individual donors world-wide. Within the following year, elected officials from city council to the US Senate signed a letter of support for the project, helping advance the project forward.

Considering the High Line’s heavy influence on the changing neighborhood of Chelsea, Barasch and Ramsey have spoken publicly about their commitment to preserving the East Village and Lower East Side. Barasch said “We’re simply taking over a space no one was using in a densely populated neighborhood that lacks sufficient public space.” Barasch and Ramsey have taken the community’s involvement to a new level in park planning, from hosting public forums to running children’s education programs– programs that engaged local kids to design their own version of what they see as their future neighborhood park while implementing science, math, arts and technology components.

Lowline Debuts This Year’s “Young Designers” Exhibit. Photo from thelodownny.com

Starting this fall, the Lowline will open “The Lowline Lab” as a free community gathering space that will showcase the newest solar technology and its laboratory for horticulture and natural lighting experiments, and will also host several cultural and community-based events. It is expected that the Lowline will begin negotiations with the MTA and the city for approval to build and operate a city park in the terminal.

Greenwich Village is once again witness to the creative re-imagination of urban park design, with most recent examples being the High Line and the Hudson River Park. However, we must make sure that the community continues to be involved in the Lowline’s process and preservation efforts for the cultural and historical integrity of this important neighborhood.

To learn more about this innovative project, please join us for a free public program on the Lowline with a talk by Co-founder, James Ramsey, on April 20. RSVP required. See details here.

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