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New Yorkers Design World's First Underground Green Space

Architects and engineers are working to open the Lowline– the world’s first underground park– in New York City.


Under bustling New York City streets, abandoned train and trolley stations sit frozen in the metropolis’ past. The spaces boast beautiful features, such as grandiose arches, vaulted ceilings and multi-colored tiles, but they were cast aside with the advent of new transportation systems.


A group of architects and engineers is working to bring one of these landmarks– a trolley terminal deserted in 1948– back into the present. The project aims to transform the one-acre area under Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan into the world’s first underground park. Called the Lowline, the park would contain cutting-edge technology and serve as a retreat from the crowded city.

“We envision not merely a new public space, but an innovative display of how technology can transform our cities in the 21st century,” states the group on its site. “And along the way, we intend to draw the community into the design process itself, empowering a new generation of Lower East Siders to help build a new bright spot in our dense urban environment.”

The team unveiled a working, full-scale model of the park’s key technology at an exhibition in 2012. The system uses computer-guided solar collectors and fiber optic cables to funnel sunlight below ground, allowing trees, plants and grass to grow. The Lowline project has also worked with New York City’s youth to envision the future of the park. The space could grow to house community and youth programs, as well as retail.

The project builds on the success of another unusual New York City green space– the High Line. This park rests on a mile of elevated, abandoned train tracks on Manhattan’s west side, and is now a popular destination for locals and tourists. The High Line has also brought economic growth to its surrounding neighborhood. Supporters of the Lowline hope the park will have similar results.

The Lowline project has the backing of public officials, but negotiations with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the City still need to be finalized before the park can be built. Its estimated completion date is 2018.


Dan Barasch and James Ramsey, co-founders of the Delancey Underground, talk about the Lowline proposal in this video by Claire Ward:


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