Low Line Raises Support, But Robotic Animals, $55 Million in Fundraising Remain Elusive

Dream on.

Dream on.

Everybody loves the Low Line! Gentrification fears aside, who wouldn’t want to see the abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal transformed into a subterranean greensward, lush with plants and trees fed by sunlight channeled from the street above?

The project, also known as the Delancey Underground, has been building a growing roster of supporters, among them the local community board and essentially every elected official with any jurisdiction over the project. And now they’re mobilizing to wrest control of the space from the MTA: last week The New York Press reported that a coalition of elected officials sent a letter to the Economic Development Corporation, urging it to work with MTA to turn the terminal over to the city.

Dan Barasch, who along with James Ramsey is spearheading the project, told The Press that the request—signed by state senators, congressional representatives, Scott Stringer, Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin—was “an important milestone” in the Low Line’s creation.

There’s just one small, nagging issue: raising the $42 million to $72 million needed to create the park. (The foundation itself is aiming to raise $55 million, with the remainder coming from public sources.)

The project has, so far, proved popular enough to attract a little cash via online fundraising campaigns. Last summer, Barasch and Ramsey managed to raise $150,000—$75,000 via online contributions and $75,000 in matching funds from an angel investor.

But even as they lay the groundwork for the park—building community support and working to convince the MTA to turn over the  space—there’s still the issue of raising the massive amount of money needed to build it, let alone maintain it. Last winter, the Lo-Down reported that the founders expected the park to be self-sufficient, raising the $2.4 million-$ 4 million it needed for annual maintenance from concessions, sponsorships and events rentals—a feat that very, very few parks in the city are able to pull off. Even the High Line and Central Park, despite receiving large amounts of private funding, still get parks department money.

To their credit, at least, the founders have admitted that funding the project will be challenging, even if they are nonetheless confident that the park will “definitely happen in five to eight years time,” as they told The Observer last year. (So make that four to seven.)

If we were Mr. Barasch, we’d give Joshua Rechnitz a call. We know that the mysterious developer loves cave-like re-development projects—he bought the “Bat Cave” in Gowanus. And he now has $50 million lying around after his plans to build a Brooklyn velodrome fell through.

In the meantime, so long as you’re dreaming outlandish dreams, you may as well dream big—like the local high school students whose design ideas for the space included flying dogs and mechanical robotic animals. Because why not?

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