Forget New York City’s High Line. Introducing: The Low Line


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By Tom Forster at Green Futures

Under Delancey Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side lurks 60,000 square feet of vaulted ceilings and cobbled streets, sitting unappreciated in the dark. The Williamsburg Bridge railway terminal was abandoned in 1948, and has now become the focus of a group of entrepreneurs with an ambitious plan: to pipe natural light underground and create a subterranean park.

The precise technology developed by James Ramsey, architect and co-founder of the project, is being kept under wraps until a demonstration is set up. But Ramsey has hinted at the use of fibre optic cables to channel sunlight.

Will New Yorkers take to this unconventional idea as they have done with other urban parks? The bar has been set uncommonly high with the completion of the second phase of the High Line in July. This ‘linear park’ was originally an elevated railway threatened with demolition. Now it’s a grassy ribbon stretching over the streets.

Its redevelopment has preserved some of the city’s most striking industrial heritage and lifted almost six million visitors out of the traffic. It is no surprise that similar projects have begun to spring up in Philadelphia, Chicago and Rotterdam.

The Delancey Underground is certainly more audacious than the High Line, but is it practical? “It’s a totally bizarre, fun idea but I think it makes a lot of natural sense”, Ramsay insists. But there are many questions to be answered, says Dr Nikolaos Karadimitriou, expert in urban regeneration at University College London. “Is this project going to generate an income stream of some sort and from what kind of activity or levy?” Community support could be crucial. It was that which made the difference in the case of the High Line. In this instance
it could yet transform a “bizarre, fun idea” into a unique green space for the Lower East Side.

This article originally appeared in Green Futures, the magazine of independent sustainability experts Forum for the Future.

Images via Delancey Underground

  • Green_Idea_Factory

    An underground park is a great idea for hot and cold times, but in regards to the lack of green space in the area, it seems that directly adjacent to the proposed site are some very large ground level parking lots!

    Let’s also hope that the “Low Line” doesn’t make the mistake of prohibiting dogs as has happened with the High Line. Dogs are considered family members by most people.

    So the eternal question is how much the team behind this stands to make from increased real estate values in the area.

    • Jcastelp

      oh,oh,oh, The place isn’t even built yet and YOU are already lobbying for your %$# dog to be allowed in. 

      First of all, some people are allergic to dogs. Others have a fear of dogs. I personally have been walking down a street on my way to a hair salon when an escaped dog was running wild and ended up against me and bit my leg. NO. I don’t want dogs in parks. I don’t want dogs in restaurants, supermarkets, outdoor cafes – anywhere. Once I sat at an outdoor cafe and all through lunch the table nearby had a dog that kept gasping and wheezing. We thought the dog was going to die. Worse, I was facing the dog and it kept drooling. It was not pleasant but I had to pay the same amount for my meal… Keep them on a leash and keep them close to home. I’m sick of stepping over dog pee on the sidewalk. I’m sick of stepping over the dirty wipe up that didn’t quite wipe up. It’s disgusting. What ever happened to “curbing your dog”???? Do people think that because they have a law requiring them to pick up after their dogs that they no longer have to curb them? I guess. But I still have to walk over that mess and wear those shoes home. 

      Let’s not even get into the damage that dogs and their owners do to the flower beds that have been planted around. The excess urine has killed more than one. In vinegar hill the volunteers gave up trying to maintain the plant beds as a result of thoughtless dog owners. I used to have cats and I never felt a need to impose them on my neighbors or take them to dinner with me if I was invited to someones house. Pets are pets. If you don’t want to leave them alone, then get a sitter like some people do for their children – not many these days but there you go…

      So, I hope this drives home the point that NOT EVERYONE LOVES YOUR DOG.