Low Line Raises Cash, but Also Fears That LES Will Be Turned Into a Gentrified Tourist Trap

delancey underground1 Low Line Raises Cash, but Also Fears That LES Will Be Turned Into a Gentrified Tourist Trap

Kind of amazing, kind of like an upscale mall.

Delancey Underground, a.k.a. the Low Line, a.k.a. New York’s first underground green space, has had a lucrative summer, raising a not-unimpressive $150,00o.

Bowery Boogie reports that the project has met its summer goal of raising $75,000 in 75 days, earning matching funds from an angel investor in the process. The project, dreamed up by RAAD Studio founder James Ramsey, would transform the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal on the LES into a subterranean garden illuminated by skylights. Lately, it’s also been racking up endorsements and support from local politicians, including State Senator Daniel Sqaudron, Representative Nydia Velázquez and Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Delancey Underground is planning to take advantage of the momentum with a model of the project in the Essex Street market building, galvanizing local support—and quite possibly some opposition—from those who don’t envy the fate of Chelsea in the wake of the High Line’s wild success.

The neighbors might be right to fear that the space, if built, will become “a tourist-clogged catwalk”—a glamorized version of grit for visitors that drives out the people and businesses that have long called New York home. At the same time, the High Line was a legitimately wonderful idea that transformed an outdated piece of infrastructure into a beautiful stretch of green space in a busy urban center very much in need of beautiful stretches of green space. And its failures would, one hopes, offer some lessons of what not to do if we’re trying  to create public spaces that contribute more than tourist dollars to the neighborhoods that host them.

kvelsey@observer.com