For almost six decades, the former Delancey Street trolley car terminal has slumbered abandoned under the Lower East Side. That means roughly two acres of open space–unheard of in Manhattan–are available for just about anything.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve wondered why the greatest city in the world has yet to feature underground parks, and you’ve felt their absence acutely. But the times are a-changing, and a subterranean land of trees and magic sunlight to complete our fair city has officially been proposed.
We know, we know. The cynic in you instinctively points a finger at the authorities. Such a radical transformation of public space couldn’t happen! Bloomberg would never allow it, you say. Even if Bloomberg did give his blessing, surely NYU itself already has plans to open a satellite campus there. An underground park just sounds too good to be true.
But wait, citizen-dreamer! The proposed Delancey Underground project, which is quickly becoming known as the “Low Line” as a counterpart to the much-lauded High Line in Chelsea, has a dream team of innovation and technical know-how behind it. Maybe you’ve heard of James Ramsey, who started the RAAD design firm before working as a satellite engineer at NASA. He is now the founder of the Delancey Underground. We’re in good hands.
If credentials with the agency that put the first man on the moon in human history doesn’t impress you, maybe the other members of the Delancey Underground team, Dan Barasch, will. Barasch is Vice President at PopTech, an NGO that focuses on “promoting socially innovating applications of technology.” He has previously worked at such illustrious institutions as Google, UNICEF, the 9/11 Survivors’ Fund, and the World Affairs Council. Barasch will presumably also help navigate New York City government bureaucracy, as he was once employed as the City’s “Manager of Strategic Initiatives.” Never have we heard so badass an official title.
The most exciting part of the project involves photons. Ramsey has invented technology through which “solar rays would be channeled through fiber-optic cable to redistribute natural light underground,” allowing trees and other plants to grow. Sunlight. Underground. Welcome to the future.
As is NYU Local’s general policy, we’re sold on anything involving natural light and redistribution, but questions of funding remain. Remember, the High Line has cost more than $150 million so far. The MTA won’t be contributing any money to the project, which we can’t argue with, given that agency’s recent layoffs. Private donations may ultimately make up the bulk of the costs of construction.
In a recent interview with the Village Voice, Ramsey admits that people are concerned about “all the usual negative associations that hover around subway stations, issues with security, darkness, dirtiness. We’re asking people to imagine what’s possible.”
We’re ready to imagine with you, James. Just promise us cell phone service and WiFi.