Gallery: The Low-Line: An Underground Park For New York City’s Lower Ea...

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.”

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.

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 Williamsburg 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 often be surveyed within seconds by the naked eye.

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.

*Readers – if any of you are Lower East Siders or New Yorkers who want to see this amazing design come to light, please leave a comment below to show your support for the design, so that we can get the city on board!

+ Delancey Underground 

+ RAAD

+ PopTech

Via New York Magazine via The Lo-Down

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16 Comments

  1. marina urbach June 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    In principle this is a wonderful idea, but I tend to agree with Chrissie Vazquez and Gil Lopez…

  2. skazmi91 June 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    This sounds amazing!! I would def come to nyc from dallas just to see this park!!!

  3. Rikke DK May 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Beatyfull idea. However I have my concerns regarding the security of the park and its isolation from the surronuding city.

    What are your thoughts on the topics?
    1. How will you make sure, that the users of the park can feel secure. How many entrances do you plan? How visible will they be? (The renderings give me an image of a very closed space with no obvious exits except from the main entrance)
    2. How is the park integrated in the surrounding townscape? I think it would be an important issue to the use and liveability to the park, that it is present in one or anonther form in the townscape. Combined with the exits? Of course the solarpanels will be visible as sign. But how will you ensure that it is integrated naturally in the urban streetlife?

    I think it a very exiting project, and it should definetely be build and tried out in some form!

  4. jfromles May 2, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Amazing! As a LES resident, this is something that we would love to have!

  5. Rougetheday January 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

    That is a fabulous idea!

  6. francesgg October 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    anyone know how the fiber optic cables work? I’m an architecture and I’d love to incorporate something like this in my designs?

    Read more: Underground ‘Low Line’ Park Planned For New York City’s Lower East Side! | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World

  7. Bruce Dillon October 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve lived on the Lowest East Side since 1987! I’m sure a next century, technologically futuristic underground Public Park “The Low Line” will only enhance and improve our hood, just as The High Line has done for the Wast Side! Just look at the popular underground developments (public spaces) in Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Kansas City, Atlanta or Rockefeller Center! Build it! please and thank you!
    Sincerely.
    Bruce Dillon

  8. gil lopez gil lopez September 24, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    This looks awesome, as a landscape designer I’m in lust with these renderings. As an urbanist though, quick analysis seems show this to be a great way for this developer to rapidly increase the cost of living in this otherwise affordable (by lower Manhattan terms at least) neighborhood. It is clear that this would bring in even more moneyed folks to a neighborhood already trying to deal with gentrification. These tourist come vacation condo owners will inevitably push out the otherwise diverse community of urban dwellers who live there now. If that’s the goal, this is a great idea!
    If the goal is to create something that will benefit and empower the existing community the money would be better left in the developers pockets and the DOT right of way reserved for possible future transportation options.
    Maybe they can bring this super slick underground park somewhere in the Upper East or West Side instead…

  9. elenaruano September 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    definitely! the city needs more parks and this is a ground breaking initiative.

  10. Chrissie vazquez September 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

    The existing parks are NOT great is the point. Construction for something like this will cost millions and do the backers have a plan for maintenance? Will this be a public park or a private one? Bc public parks are run by the Parks Dept which has no $. This project needs extensive environmental remediation before it’s a viable park use option–it’s been left to over 60 years of decay. Rust is the least of their problems. How about lead? Asbestos? Construction required to set up the solar posts on the street?
    For the amount of work developers would have to put in and amt of $, I can’t see this project as being anything more than an exercise in “look what I can do”, Epcot style.
    If they have $ to throw around and want to do something green and for the community, they should give us something we actually need/want, not a multimillion dollar fantasy that will be a drain on community finances in the future when the darn thing needs maintenance. The why not is because if it was about helping the community with green space they’d assess the condition of parks we already have and find ways to make them greener and to make renovations more affordable and Eco friendly by use of recycled materials and green technology like solar power, composting toilets, etc.
    Just because it’s “cool” and it’s a “cool” neighborhood doesn’t mean it belongs here. You can’t ride in like a cowboy and tell a community that just because you have a “cool” idea we should give you license to do whatever you want to make your dream happen when we have needs and dreams of our own! And some of them include ppl paying attention to the reality of most of the LES off the bar and boutique strip where we DON’T have access to clean or new or nice versions of BASIC parks to take our children to. I’m a second generation LESer, and if some developer with $ and ideas to “help” us is coming our way, I’d appreciate it if they had the decency and forethought to think about what the community actually needs and could use before they come in to sell us an underground Disney land tourist trap when there are parks all over this neighborhood in need of $ for basketball hoops, tire swings, afterschool programs, and tree replanting.
    This underground park will take years to build. We have beat up above ground established parks that need funding and help NOW. So who is this project for then? Us or them?
    The answer seems clear to me.

  11. j.b. digriz September 20, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I’d rather retain any right-of-way continuity that might be lost were this underground space converted to any use but subway/light-rail. An equivalent hole could be dug in many places, but once you lose right-of-way in a dense city it’s probably gone for good.

  12. Squat or Rot September 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    This does not cater specifically to new combers, it’s for everyone. While those existing parks are great and should be well maintained this park is different simply because it is freaking cool! It’s just a cool idea and if it’s privately funded than why not?

  13. Chrissie Vázquez September 19, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Concerns:
    1. Security
    2. Upkeep in a time of economic downturn
    3. Control & safety of the site to prevent contamination from hazardous materials like asbestos bein released into the underground tunnel system which lack air circulation and posing a health hazard to commuters in the subway system and members of the community. What kind of environmental impact studies & abstracts are we looking at to make this thing happen?
    4. How about the well meaning ppl willing to finance this thing put $ into serving existing community gardens, places like the Lower East Side Ecology center & green oriented programs designed to help the entire community which includes a great deal of long term middle/lower middle/poor residents many of whom are families? We had more parks and open space–till developers bulldozed our community gardens to build yuppie housing for the yuppies who like the novelty of a park underground instead of volunteering to pick up trash or clean up graffiti in one of our City parks. I think it’s a lovely/cool/entertaining but overblown idea that doesn’t really address the needs of the community.
    5. How about the idea of greening and revamping http://gulickpark.org/?page_id=13 which is on Sheriff street (which runs alongside the W’burg parallel to Delancy at Pitt) to make it an Eco friendly and viable space for people in the actual community to use and not just an attraction for tourists? Maybe some design ideas and actual community involvement to plan gardens, replanting trees lost to Asian longhorn beetle, resurfacing play areas with recycled materials, installing a solar powered public pay toilet like the one near Madison Sq park & Herald Sq.
    We don’t need more “attractions”. We have been trampled enough by the invasion of “cool” but impractical that has glossed over long standing real needs of the actual community to cater to newcomers.

  14. erin649 September 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

    great idea & great use of space. i think they should consider adding a community garden somewhere within the 2 acres.

    one question, though: what becomes of sunlight down there during the winter months? are fiberoptics able to sustain solar power energy during darker months?

    all in all, i really hope it is able to come to fruition!! this city could use more green, even if it’s under ground!

  15. pedroraij September 19, 2011 at 7:06 am

    great idea
    I wish you luck

  16. owen66 September 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    this has been such a waste of space – this will def bring more pedestrian traffic to that area