It seems like every week, the Delancey Underground comes a little bit closer to reality. Affectionately known as the Low Line, the proposed underground park could occupy an abandoned trolley station under Delancey and Essex Streets in the Lower East Side. Creators James Ramsey, the principal of RAAD, and Dan Barasch of tech think tank PopTech have already raised more than $140,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund a sunlight irrigation system prototype, which they are currently building with Arup Engineering. Arup will also work with the team to complete a series of feasibility studies to assess the issues of building an underground park.
Arup Engineering is a high-profile, global firm that works on major projects like the high speed Chunnel trains, the Second Avenue Subway, and the Water Cube for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The firm’s support for the Low Line certainly gives the project a major boost and a firmer standing in becoming a reality and not just an innovative idea. “We are inspired to work with the same firm that is helping the City build the 2nd Avenue subway, the Fulton Street Transit Center, and many other iconic public projects,” says Barasch.
Arup’s work with the Low Line will involve a wide arrange of the firm’s skill set, including geotechnical engineering, structural/mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering, lighting, acoustics, traffic, wayfinding, fire/life safety, and cost estimating consulting. Arup Marketing Manager Kyle Fisher also noted that the term “feasibility” should be clarified, as the term seems to question the viability of the project. “In the architecture/engineering industry, a feasibility study seeks to identify the issues that the design team will face to ensure that unforeseen issues will not arise later down the line,” says Fisher.
Since revealing the Low Line proposal last fall, the creators have already made significant progress, especially when you consider that many immediately wrote off the idea as being unrealistic. They have created a small-scale working prototype of the sunlight irrigation system that will bring light to the underground space, and the money raised through Kickstarter will help fund a large-scale prototype. The system collects natural sunlight and filters it into the subterranean space to allow trees, plants, and grasses to grow.
The abandoned Essex Street Trolley terminal, where the proposed park would go, spans 60,000 square feet and has been unused since 1948. The Low Line would preserve the vintage architectural accents — cobblestones, vaulted 20 foot ceilings, aged steel columns, crisscrossing trolley tracks — while creating a modern green space for the community.
“There is a lot of excitement about this project at Arup, as well as a number of specific challenges that peaked our involvement,” says Fisher. “The range of services as well as the unique technical challenges that this underground park can pose — abandoned train area, subterranean environment, lacking light — are key drivers for Arup.”
You can learn more about the Low Line here, or by visiting the official Delancey Underground website. Additionally, from April 1-29, you can stop by Mark Miller Gallery on Orchard Street, where the team is presenting a month-long showcase of the park proposal. You can help make this park a reality by donating to the Kickstarter campaign.