BY: TED BARNABY
New York continues to perpetuate its self-claimed tittle as “greatest city in the world” with the construction of the world’s first underground park.
The underground park—complete with sunlight, trees, grass and all natural green space—is rising from the ashes of an old trolley terminal located in the city’s Lower East Side below Delancey Street, which has been abandoned since 1948.
The project is named “The Lowline”, drawing inspiration from the High Line transformation that turned one of West Side Manhattan’s elevated rail lines into a public park.
The team working on The Lowline is using large aboveground solar dishes to collect sunlight and to redistribute it into the underground trolley station using a fiber optic cable. The sunlight, which is projected into these dark corridors, transmits the wavelengths necessary to produce plants and trees. This solar technology also means that the underground space would be almost entirely illuminated by sunlight, only needing the aid of electricity at nighttime or periods of darkness.
In order to catch enough sunlight throughout the day, The Lowline team had to calculate the location and duration of passing shadows which extend from the nearby buildings, allowing them to strategically place the solar panels in areas that would not be obstructed by the dark.
The project’s leaders share a vision of breathing life into a dilapidated and forgotten space, and repurposing it into a communal asset, rather than simply neglecting abandoned spaces and letting them decay.
One of the amazing features of an underground park is that it gives you all-year access. Imagine the possibilities—picnics on underground grassy knolls in the middle of winter.
The park is estimated to cost approximately $60 million, which is largely sourced from private funding. Dan Barasch, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the project, estimates that construction can finally begin in about five years time.
As always, there are skeptics. Kerri Culhane, Associate Director of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council claims that the park will attract real estate investors and alienate the current residents of the neighborhood. She also contends that the park’s integrity will begin to dissipate if it is frequently rented out for private events. However, Barasch believes this might not be such a terrible idea, as it would allow the park to self-sustain without relying on government funds.
Whatever the case is, the park is surely a stride into our wildest sci-fi fantasies, and a much more practical use of a previously useless underground space.