Imagining the Lowline, a Demonstation of the Underground Park that could Transform the Lower East Side

Published on Sep 17, 2012

Imagining the Lowline Exhibition
Imagining the Lowline Exhibition
For the next two weeks, in an abandoned warehouse on Delancey Street, residents of the Lower East Side can get a glimpse of (fingers crossed!) the future. That's because the folks behind the wildly ambitious dream to create an underground public park in an ancient trolley station--complete with trees, greenery, and actual "piped in" sunlight--are putting the first steps of their visionary plan on display in the hopes of gaining even more press attention, public support, and funding of all kinds for turning their wacky-but-brilliantly-perfect idea into reality. Called Imaging the Lowline, the exhibit will be open only through September 27, with a couple of special events (as well as a couple of closings for Rosh Hashana) during the run. But even if you can't make it to the demonstration, downtown apartments residents should know that, although there are still major challenges ahead, it looks like, right now, the Lowline could actually happen. Heck, the naysayers called the High Line a cockamamie scheme when it was first introduced, and just see what became of that! Possible Lower East Side Underground Park
Possible Lower East Side Underground Park
I went to Imagining the Lowline over the weekend, on opening day, and was pretty impressed with both the physical presentation of the project as well as the clarity with which the whole plan was expressed. Sure, many questions remain, but if this high-tech park really grows under the streets of the LES, it's likely going to be awesome.

History of the Lowline Idea

Here's some background: about a year ago architect James Ramsey and former PopTech strategist Dan Barasch released their unsolicited-by-anyone renderings of what it could be like if they were allowed to build a fully-fledged park in the vast trolley station underneath the area around Delancey and Broome Streets, which has been sitting empty for decades, ever since trolleys stopped crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Immediately dubbed the Lowline by every blogger and media outlet in town, Ramsey and Barasch's plan was particularly intriguing for its use of solar panels and fiber optics to bring natural sunlight--real sunlight, like from the outside--into their cavernous space, which would not only make the park feel like the real outdoors, inside of fake, mall-ish outdoors, it would also make it unlike any other place in the world. Imagining the Lowline Exhibition
Imagining the Lowline Exhibition
Anyway, that was Phase 1, and Ramsey and Barasch began soliciting contributions via Kickstarter for Phase 2. Their initial fundraising goal of $100,000 was easily, almost immediately met and exceeded, and, combined with a feasibility study to be released this week (which will include estimated final costs), the result is this, the Imaging the Lowline demonstration. Lower East Side apartment residents should definitely check it out at some point between now and the 27th, though I wish they were keeping it open later than 6:00, so folks could easily pop in on their way home from work, but oh well. And though it won't take you more than 20 minutes or so to get all the way through the exhibition--and that's with lots of lingering by the tree--I also recommend making the trip down here if you're interested in urban planning, or NYC parks, or cool things that could happen. Lower East Side Proposed Underground Park Panels
Lower East Side Proposed Underground Park Panels

Imagining the Lowline Exhibition Runs for a Limited Time

Imagining the Lowline is open almost daily until September 27 from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m.; closed on Monday and Tuesday, September 17th and 18th, for Rosh Hashana. Imagining the Lowline is located on the corner of Essex and Broome Streets (one block south of Delancey); admission is free, though donations are accepted, and they'll give you a pot of wheat grass if you give $20. More info and complete calendar here. Old Trolley Station, Site of Proposed Lowline Park
Old Trolley Station, Site of Proposed Lowline Park
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