Rail transportation has been key to NYC’s growth, as well as central to the city’s identity. Even when disused or abandoned, trains and their tracks still retain their hold on our imaginations – think about the High Line, the wonderful elevated park along former rail tracks on the West Side. And now there’s a very active move afoot to turn an underground trolley terminal – that hasn’t been used since 1948 – into a green space. Underground park? Yup, you heard right. At first blush, this might sound like an improbable concept, but a visit to the Lowline Lab might change your mind.
James Ramsey and Dan Barasch conceived of the Lowline in 2009, and in 2011, they revealed their idea publicly in a New York Magazine article. It sounded nuts, but hey – why not! In 2015, the Low Line Lab, a prototype of the proposed subterranean park, opened its doors in an abandoned warehouse on the Lower East Side. With sunlight. And real plants and trees. The Lab makes use of cutting-edge solar technology in the form a a “remote skylight”: sunlight passes through a glass shield above a parabolic collector, and is reflected and gathered at one focal point, then distributed via a solar canopy.
Right now, when you walk through the Lab, you can see 3,000 plants, including 65 species of subtropical plants.
When realized, the Lowline will comprise three city blocks, on the site of the former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, just below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (next to the J, M and Z lines). 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.
The Lowline Lab has gotten a one year extension until March 2017, but don’t wait that long to see it. Located at 140 Essex Street, it’s open on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11:00 to 5:00 and is FREE!