by Laura Matiz
In another one of those New-Yorkers-are-amazing stories comes the latest urban planning idea for the Lower East Side. Co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch have proposed The Lowline, the city's first underground park to be housed in a football-field-sized trolley terminal that has been vacant for over 60 years. They plan to harvest natural light using a custom-designed fiber optics system during daytime and use LED lighting at night. This weather-protected space would be accessible year round adding much needed public green space to the densely-developed Lower East Side.
The abandoned trolley terminal was last used in 1948 and it served as the turnaround for trolleys crossing the East River over the Williamsburg Bridge. In our opinion, the one feature that really makes this possible is that the terminal was built with 20" ceilings. Anything less would have made the space too claustrophobic for most. Also, lest anyone think that The Lowline will be a lengthy stroll because of its name, the space, end-to-end, will only be about two city blocks long.
The Lowline developers have been determined to involve the community in the planning, as they seek to provide cultural and economic value to the neighborhood. The current effort is in the midst of fundraising while working with the city planners to make The Lowline a reality by 2018.
Read all about the project at http://thelowline.org/. There are numerous images and videos, including black-and-white photos from the days of the trolleys. For those who want to help, there is also a page to make contributions.