Dig This: Underground Park Sought For Manhattan

From Kickstarter, the online platform that transforms design concepts into consumer products, comes an idea for transforming an abandoned underground trolley terminal in Manhattan into the nation’s first underground green space. And while it won’t be the first underground park in the world—that honor may lie with Shanghai—it will be the first underground recreational space in the U.S. (commercial space first prize goes to Kansas City, Mo).

Given the population density of Manhattan, and the difficulty finding decent affordable work and living space there, it’s not surprising that someone would want to take the fun underground. After all, there is a New York High Line—a complete park built on a repurposed elevated rail line. Why not a Low Line?

Delancey Underground

image via WNYC courtesy Delancey Underground

The space is called Delancey Underground, a thriving center of cultural diversity and invention in the heart of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Filled with fascinating, time-stamped architectural details like cobblestone streets, vaulted 20-foot ceilings supported on steel columns and intersecting trolley tracks, the future park—nicknamed the LowLine—is fully 1.5 acres (60,000 square feet) waiting to be reborn. Many of the verbal approvals, from neighborhood business and community groups, and elected officials, have been given. All it needs is a little kick start, in the form of $100,000 in donations from the Kickstarter community.

Using a combination of solar technology and optics to harvest sunlight and redirect it underground, where it is collected by a solar distributor dish affixed to the ceiling—and with a mockup already in place—designer James Ramsey (owner/founder of architectural design firm RAAD Studio) and Dan Barasch, the manager of Delancey Underground, hope to create an all-seasons public space supporting local businesses and offering arts, crafts, concerts and fresh produce daily in a brightly lit space free from rain, snow, sleet and other meteorological mischief. The next step is building a full-fledged demo to illustrate to city planners and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which owns the space, that the concept is feasible from an engineering standpoint.