New York’s Parks Go Underground

Posted on February 29, 2012

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A group of New Yorkers are looking to add to diversity to New York’s long list of famous parks.  Inspired by the transformation of an abandoned railway on the west side of Manhattan into the High Line urban park, they are hoping to do something similar on the Lower East Side — only this time, underground.  LowLine, the projects nickname, organizers at the Delancey Underground want to transform an abandoned trolley terminal below their neighborhood into what they say would be New York City’s first underground community green space.  The 60,000-square-foot, 1.5 acre site was built in 1903 and originally housed streetcars destined for Williamsburg.  It has been out of operation since 1948.

So far, those trying to get the Low Line underground park built have raised $64,000 on kickstarter.com, bringing them within arm’s reach of their $100,000 goal by April 6th.  “We’re technically building the most kick-ass demonstration of solar technology in New York City memory,” Co-founder Dan Barasch says.  According to co-founder James Ramsey, an architect and former NASA engineer, the park would use high-tech solar technology to gather natural sunlight and direct it using fiber optic cables to allow plants and trees to grow underground.  The project has already attracted more than 675 backers, two of which have pledged more than $10,000 — a donation that gets you VIP-partner status plus a gourmet dinner cooked by “chef” Ramsey.  “[MTA officials] are intrigued by our proposal but are interested in our developing a business case for the location which supports their real estate objectives alongside our community development goals,” Barasch said. Who would own the underground park, he added, “remains unclear at this stage.”

High Line – The Low Line’s inspiration

The High Line is a 1-mile (1.6 km) New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile (2.33 km)section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan; it has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway.  Originally opened to trains in 1943, the High Line ran from 34th Street to Spring Street.  In the 1960’s, a large portion of the southern line was demolished; with the growth of interstate trucking, the line was no longer needed.  In the 1990’s the remaining section of the line was set to be demolished.  In 1999, the non-profit Friends of the High Linewas formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the neighborhood the High Line ran through.  In 2004, the New York City government approved the Friends’ plan to transform the structure into a park or greenway.  The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009.  This southern section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street.

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