LowLine Creators Reach Initial Fundraising Goal On Kickstarter

Will New York's Underground Park Become A Reality?

Think a park beneath the streets of New York is far-fetched? A pair of innovators are one step closer to making it a reality.

Dan Barasch and James Ramsey have secured the initial funds for the LowLine, an underground park on Manhattan's Lower East Side. While they lack the generous $20 million that the Diller-von-Furstenberg Foundation donated to the High Line, the group's Kickstarter page shows that they’ve cleared their initial $100,000 fundraising goal with around $150,000. The first $100,000 will be used to build a “mini LowLine” to show the community and possible backers that the project is feasible. After that will come a full scale demonstration of their skylight technology and studies regarding the structural and ventilation conditions of the terminal.

Entrepreneurs and creative thinkers have been coming out of New York City offices recently to transform and get creative with the cities shared spaces. The High Line in the West Village and Chelsea provided a charismatic spark to the area near the Hudson River, and was eventually granted a sizable half-mile extension last year.

While the High Line took over an elevated historic freight rail line, the LowLine’s creators have their eyes set on reviving an abandoned underground trolley terminal on the Lower East Side. Former site of the Williamsburg trolley terminal, the site was built in 1903 but has been abandoned since 1948. While an underground park may have you thinking of dark caverns and subway tunnels, Barasch and Ramsey have taken creative measures to assuage these anxieties. Both Ramsey (Yale, NASA) and Barasch (Cornell, Google) have the ingenuity and background to make the space thrive again.

Ramsey is principal of the architecture firm RAAD Studio and has helped to create an innovative technology wherein sunlight can be directed underground by fiber optic cables. Solar collectors at street level will collect sunlight all day and subsequently reflect that light below ground. This will allow for a true green space underground, with photosynthesis ensuring that plants, trees and grass can grow. With 60,000 square feet -- around 1.5 acres -- the prospective park can build around some of the original architecture which includes old cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks, vaulted 20-foot ceilings, and strong steel columns.

"Of course the lighting will be supplemented with an electric supply at night and during cloudy periods...and we'll also need additional energy for a ventilation system," Ramsey told CNN. “But for both cost and environmental purposes, any additional energy use will be as green and efficient as possible."

Apart from a space to relax, the LowLine’s creators have envisioned the space as an arena for all kinds of commerce and entertainment. Ideas include a farmers market, concerts, art installations and youth programs. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, who own the space, are trying to boost awareness for the project, including offering a video tour of the space in November.

With the MTA’s interest and support in revitalizing the area under Delancey, Ramsey and Barasch are now focusing on the economic realities and galvanizing surrounding communities and businesses for the project.

"We're doing all we can to build community support, from every small business, real estate owner, local resident, student, or artist to all elected officials," Barasch told Yahoo. “If we move ahead, it will be with the support of the Lower East Side community, and it will be something that will belong to everybody."

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