The Low-Line: An Underground Park For New York City’s Lower East Side!
Architect: James Ramsey, RAAD Studio, Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech
Site: New York City
When it opened in 2009, New York City’s High Line, an elevated train track that was converted into a park, instantly became one of the most celebrated modern parks in the world. So it should come as little surprise that New Yorkers are looking to tap the concept and the energy of the High Line in other new urban parks. A group of NYC entrepreneurs have come up with a plan to convert another abandoned rail line into a park on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The difference: The proposed park will be located entirely underground. A group that includes Dan Barasch from PopTech, money manager R. Boykin Curry IV, and architect James Ramsey recently announced plans to convert a dark, dank subway track beneath Delancey Street into an inviting ‘Low Line‘ park. The proposal is not without its challenges. To stream natural light into the subterranean chamber, the group proposes to pump natural sunlight into the underground space using fiberoptic cables and mirrors.
New York City’s High Line - the now famous abandoned train-track-turned-park - has become well known around the world as a spectacular example of urban revitalization through smart design, even inspiring copycat elevated parks. Now Manhattan is considering another abandoned train track park renovation project called “The Low Line” - this time in the Lower East Side neighborhood. The catch with this new proposal is that the abandoned train station in question is entirely underground (below Delancey Street) - a subterranean challenge which would require a high-tech, innovative approach to lighting in order to facilitate plant growth and human comfort. (Anyone who has ever been inside a NYC subway station knows that a lot of work would be required to transform one of these dank dark caves into a tranquil, pastoral setting). That’s why we’re loving this ingenious proposal for the new Low Line underground park by architect James Ramsey, the principal of RAAD, in part with Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech, and a money manager, R. Boykin Curry IV, to pump natural sunlight into the subterranean space with fiberoptic cables and mirrors, somewhat like a solar tube or a sunlight transport device (which we’ve covered here and here on Inhabitat), allowing plants to grow and creating a serene and sunny underground urban oasis.
Sitting below Delancey Street is a vast trolley terminal that has been left abandoned for the last 60 years. The terminal once operated cars that crossed the Willamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, looping back. The terminal measures approximately 2 acres — a vast amount of space, especially when compared to the average NYC park, which can be surveyed within seconds by the naked eye.
New York City’s Lower East Side (LES) is known as the city’s hot spot for all things cool and cutting edge. So it’s no wonder that this hip neighborhood is taking things to a whole new level – literally – with the design of a new urban park located in the heart of the downtown quarter. More than just another street level park, or even an attempt to mimic the westside’s High Line, this new and awe-inspiring park will be sited deep underground, below bustling Delancey Street. Designed by architect James Ramsey, the principal of RAAD, in part with Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech, and a money manager, R. Boykin Curry IV, this ingenious design dubbed “The Low-Line” is a sustainable urban outlet with an ambitious underground program focusing in on subterranean photosynthesis.
Even though the park design will be set below the street, the goal is to create a space that is far from a dark, dank and depressing destination. The ground-breaking design team is banking on a high-tech fiber optic lighting system to enable a green space that is bright, sunny and welcoming. The park will be equipped with extensive lighting units utilizing fiber optics to channel natural daylight to the depths below. Dozens of lamppost-like solar collectors will be placed on the Delancey Street to complete this task. And as a bonus, the system the designers envision will also filter out harmful ultraviolet and infrared light, but keeping the wavelengths used in photosynthesis to foster and nourish plant growth. Speaking to New York Magazine, Ramsey told reporters “We’re channeling sunlight the way they did in ancient Egyptian tombs, but in a supermodern way.”
Currently, the terminal is under the control of the MTA, but they have agreed to listen to the trio’s pitch – they have however made it clear they will not submit any funding for the construction of the park. The team will also have to present their proposal this Wednesday night to members of Community Board 3, who will give a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to the introduction of an underground park in the neighborhood.