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 in 2012 with Arup, the global engineering firm, and HR&A Advisors, the leading consultant behind the High Line. 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 cultural programming, youth activities, and popular retail.
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.
Waves of European immigrants make the Lower East Side their new home. The area surrounding Delancey Street is quickly developed into tenements, creating the densest urban conditions the world has ever known.
The one-acre Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal is constructed below Delancey Street, to be used by passengers traveling from Brooklyn to the Lower East Side. Trolley riders would end their journeys in this underground terminal, before ascending to a bustling Delancey Street.
In the era of the influential Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, trolley service is discontinued, as the automobile, bus, and subway assume superior roles in New York City public transportation. The Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal is closed to the public, and would never again have any official transit use, despite its adjacency to the J/M/Z 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 team hosts an exhibit of the concept at Mark Miller Gallery on Orchard Street, in the heart of the Lower East Side. The community packs the space to learn more about the concept and meet the cofounders and engineers behind the idea.
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 (link to internal tech page) 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 aims to have completed negotiations with the MTA and the City to build and operate the underground park.
Negotiations are finalized, and the Lowline embarks upon a capital campaign to support construction.
The Lowline is opened for all to enjoy.