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Mark Miller Gallery; James Ramsey; Dan Barusch; Delancey Underground; Low Line; Williamsburg Trolley Terminal; Underground park; Raad Studio; Ed Jacobs; Lower East Side; subterranean park

A few years ago, when Ramsey of Raad Studio learned about a huge, unused space below Delancey Street, he began thinking of how to create what could potentially be deemed the world’s first underground park. Built in 1903 and abandoned since 1948, the former Williamsburg Trolley Terminal can be deciphered if you look carefully from the Delancey Street platform on the JMZ subway line.

Dark and dingy, Ramsey, Ed Jacobs, and the team at Raad Studio have created an innovative daylight technology system that will enliven the space. The system extracts natural light from street level and through a series of fiber optic cables, delivers the natural light to the subterranean park below, allowing trees and plants to grow alongside the historic cobblestones and tracks. Much like the High Line, Ramsey’s design builds on existing but forgotten urban infrastructure to redefine space, thus aptly nicknaming the project the “Low Line.”

If the project is a success, it has the potential to serve not only as a gathering point for the local community but also to draw international attention. The High Line has become a point of reference for designers throughout the world and building the first underground public park would undoubtedly have a similar, if not larger effect. In a tough economy, this could mean an increase in tourism and revenue for local businesses.

So just how do Ramsey and Barasch plan to fund their ambitious project? Hopefully the city, state, and federal governments will eventually take interest, but in the meantime, the two have launched a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter even highlighted their pitch on an interview with CNN as one of the most innovative pitches currently on Kickstarter! With the goal of raising $100,000, over 3,000 people from all over the world have already showed their support and helped the campaign far exceed its goal with still a week to go. Although this is only a fraction of what will be needed to make the park a reality, the outpouring of support shows great promise during hard times.

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Support from the local community is also evident. The month-long exhibition came to fruition thanks in part to LES gallery owner and President of the LES Business Improvement District (BID), Mark Miller. Upon learning about the proposed park, he immediately took interest and generously donated his gallery space to host what he hopes will be a way to engage the community and raise support for the project. As a proponent of local businesses, Miller sees the park as a potential for attracting more commerce and daytime activity to an area famed for its vibrant nightlife.

Bringing more foot traffic could translate into more retail sales. I think it would be a wonderful thing for the Tenement Museum. They could do tours. In addition, it’s wonderful for our residents to have a place to go when it’s snowy outside. You can stretch your legs, exercise. I can also see a lot of community events happening there. From an economic point of view, from small business, from tourism, from a history perspective, it’s such a win. It’s not being used and it would be great if we could create green space and clean up the conditions down there. The MTA wouldn’t have to maintain it because it would be maintained by [the Delancey Underground]. I’d love to make this dream a reality and try to make it happen quicker than other public projects that have taken 10 years. It would be great if we could do this in five.

Throughout the month-long exhibit, visitors and community members will have a chance to write their feedback and propose new ideas in a book that will then be carefully reviewed by Ramsey and Barasch when moving forward.

To get a real feel for the future park, be sure to stop by the official opening on Sunday, April 1st from noon to 6pm where you can meet Ramsey and Barasch and ask any questions. Additionally, stay tuned for a microcosm of the park that the co-founders plan to install at the Essex Street Market in September. The installation will give the team a chance to show how the solar technology will function and also see what kind of community the park could potentially bring together. If that’s not enough, there’s still a week left to support the Low Line Kickstarter Campaign that will only help expedite the process of making the park a reality!

+ Mark Miller Gallery
+ Raad Studio
+ Kickstarter Campaign

Images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat