Though guests gathered at the Lowline’s Great Anti-Gala last Tuesday night to raise funds for the nascent lighting technology that would enable the world’s first subterranean park, the cavernous interior of the defunct Lower East Side synagogue that hosted the event was illuminated by one of the oldest: candles.
A good-natured but somewhat relentless homage to the early 20th-century Lower East Side, the evening celebrated the era when the Lowline’s would-be home—the derelict Williamsburg Trolley Terminal—was dedicated to transit rather than urban planning dreams.
Contortionists, acrobats and tap dancers with tin cups roamed through the cocktail-swilling crowd, causing some confusion: “Are we supposed to tip them, or are those cups just for show?” one man wondered aloud to his date, who confessed that she was equally perplexed.
On Sunday, April 1, the white walls of Mark Miller Gallery on Orchard Street were covered with renderings of the imagined possibilities of the Low Line, a much-talked-about plan for an underground park in an abandoned trolley turnaround station below Delancey Street that will be lit by solar technology, if its creators can make it happen. The exhibit, which opened that night, also included a three-dimensional model of a cross section below Delancey Street, and a rather intimidating example of that fiber-optic solar technology.
Efforts to raise money for the Delancey Underground–also known as the Low Line–have taken off, thanks to private fundraising on the website Kickstarter.com. Back in September, when we talked to the founders of the project, ex-NASA scientist James Ramsey and RAAD partner Dan Barasch, they had low expectations about raising any money from the city.
It’s predecessor, the West Side High Line, had gotten some public money, but was built in a different era, Mr. Ramsey told us. “The recession hadn’t hit, and it was right after 9/11, when the city was looking to put money in an urban renewal project.”
Last week, New York magazine revealed James Ramsey and Dan Barasch‘s plans to create a subterranean green space in the abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Station under Delancey Street. The pictures that Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Barsch (a former NASA engineer and a PopTech executive with a background in non-profit social design and government work, respectively) produced for the article were futuristic wonderlands, like Japanese illustrations inspired by Ray Bradbury.
But the reality is not so fanciful: The proposed “Low Line” project would transform the approximate 600 x 100 square feet area that lay across from the Brooklyn-bound JMZ-line into an organic public space that would be three quarters the size of Gramercy Park. It will cost millions of dollars in private funding, and will need the support of a community that has spent forty years fighting with another environmental group over approximately the same space above ground.