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.
The launch of the Low Line exhibit last week previewed the potential of life in subterranean Manhattan. Here we take a look inside the surreal scenes of an underground park, fed by light from fancy new solar technology, and then hang out at as a special benefit held on Thursday night to promote the dream park. Among the guests? None other than Entourage star Adrian Grenier. Now that it’s drawing some star power, it looks like the Low Line might be able to rock some of that High Line magic all the way to reality.
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.
12 to Watch in 2012
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.”
Welcome to 12 to Watch in 2012, a new web series profiling some of New York’s top minds doing innovative things with technology and design.
Meet James Ramsey, the principal of architecture firm RAAD Studio. He’s also the creator of the Delancey Underground, better known as the Low Line - a proposed subterranean park in an abandoned trolley space underneath Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. Using fiberoptic solar technology that he helped develop, Ramsey can channel light through small cables and then display the sunshine underground, turning an inhabitable cave into a recreational area.
Two months ago, we were introduced to James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, the duo who were proposing to turn the abandoned Delancey trolly tunnel underneath Essex Street into an eco-friendly environment from the future called the Low Line.
Despite the very real chance that the Low Line won’t get any public funding (making it near impossible to build), the media has picked up on this whimsical idea…mainly because we had no idea that every time we looked across the platform on the JMZ to Brooklyn, we were staring directly into a 108-year-old cavern. With signs of human life.
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.