We are inspired to use technology to improve the lives of city residents, by creating more of the green space we all need. The Lowline aims to build a new kind of public space— one that highlights the historic elements of a former trolley terminal while introducing cutting-edge solar technology and design, enabling plants and trees to grow underground.
To explore our vision in greater detail, we commissioned a preliminary planning study with Arup, the global engineering firm, and HR&A Advisors, a leading real estate, economic development and energy-efficiency consulting firm. The study concluded that the Lowline was not merely technically feasible, but would also vastly improve the local economy and the adjacent transit hub. Once built, the Lowline would be a dynamic cultural space, featuring a diversity of community programming and youth activities.
We envision not merely a new public space, but an innovative display of how technology can transform our cities in the 21st century. And along the way, we intend to draw the community into the design process itself, empowering a new generation of Lower East Siders to help build a new bright spot in our dense urban environment.
In 1908, the one-acre Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal opens on Delancey Street, transporting passengers from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn. After just four decades of use, the trolley terminal is closed to the public, and would never again have any official transit use, despite its adjacency to the J/M/A subway line.
The Lower East Side remains a remarkably diverse neighborhood, due to a mix of public housing and former tenements, and home to immigrants, small businesses, and artists. Delancey Street is widened for high volume car traffic, and becomes one of the least safe streets for pedestrians and local residents.
James Ramsey, owner of Lower East Side design firm Raad Studio, is introduced to the forgotten Williamsburg trolley terminal and he hatches a plan to install solar technology in the site, enabling plants and trees to grow. Dan Barasch is separately exploring a project to install underground art in the New York City subway system. The two friends chat one night over too much wine, and agree to explore the idea of an “underground park” in earnest.
James Ramsey and Dan Barasch release the concept of the Lowline to the public in a highly visible New York Magazine feature. New Yorkers and the world at large are fascinated by the idea that an underground park is possible.
The team launches a Kickstarter campaign that raises over $155,000 from 3,300 supporters from all over the world— creating a new record for the largest number of supporters for an urban design project on the platform. A community is born.
The Lowline commissions two planning studies, one from HR&A Advisors and one from Arup, to assess the viability of building a public park in the former trolley terminal. Both studies provide solid evidence that the idea can be transformed into reality.
Team Lowline installs a functioning full-scale model of the solar technology and accompanying green park in an abandoned warehouse directly above the actual site. The exhibit was attended by over 11,000 visitors in just two weeks, serving as proof of concept for the ambitious project.
The Lowline conducts its first in-school program with local high school students, designed to engage young people in the process of imagining an underground park and to help design its future uses. This leads to additional youth engagement and design projects with local schools and organizations.
Nine elected officials send a joint letter to the City showing their support for the Lowline project and encouraging the City to help it progress.
The Lowline conducts a semester long Young Designers Program with Henry Street Settlement / Boys & Girls Republic, Educational Alliance / SPARC Program and University Settlement / Beacon Program.
The Lowline has a month long exhibit of the Young Designers work at the Mark Miller Gallery.
The Lowline holds the “Shaping the Lowline” exhibit, where work from the newest class of Young Designers is displayed and the community is invited to provide greater input.
October 2015- February 26, 2017
The Lowline Lab– a free community gathering space that displays cutting-edge solar technology, serves as a laboratory for lighting and horticulture experiments, and features multiple cultural and community events– is open to the public. Over 100,000 people have visited the the Lab to date.
The Lowline aims to have completed negotiations with the MTA and the City to build and operate the underground park. After negotiations are finalized, a capital campaign to support construction will be launched.
The Lowline is opened for all to enjoy.