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116-year-old abandoned trolley terminal.

116-year-old abandoned trolley terminal.

The world’s first underground park in the New York City borough of Manhattan that would be located under the eastbound roadway of Delancey Street on the Lower East Side, adjacent to the Essex Street station (J M Z trains).

The area, with ceilings 20 feet (6.1 m) high, extends three blocks east from Essex Street to Clinton Street and was used until 1948 as a station and balloon loop for streetcars crossing the Williamsburg Bridge to and from Brooklyn.

Natural light would be directed below ground using fiber opticsdescribed in the proposed plan as “remote skylights” to provide an area in which trees and grass could be grown beneath the city streets..

In this approach, sunlight passes through a glass shield above the parabolic collector, and is reflected and gathered at one focal point, and directed underground. Sunlight is transmitted onto a reflective surface on the distributor dish underground, transmitting that sunlight into the space.

Here is how it works…

Light collectors would be placed at ground level, with suggested locations, including the median on Delancey Street. Artificial lighting would be used to supplement the redirect sunlight, and at night and when the sun is obscured by clouds.

The new technology would transmit the necessary wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow. During periods of sunlight, electricity would not be necessary to light the space.

The project has been endorsed by politicians and organizations such as Manhattan Community Board 3 and the Lower East Side business improvement district.

In September 2012, the Lowline team built a full scale prototype of the technology in an abandoned warehouse in the Lower East Side, for the Imagining the Lowline exhibit. The exhibit attracted thousands of visitors, was heavily covered by the press and ultimately served as a proof of concept.

Work plan

Work plan

20142017 : 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.

2018 : The Lowline is opened for all to enjoy.

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The proposed location is the one-acre former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, just below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The site was opened in 1908 for trolley passengers, but has been unused since 1948 when trolley service was discontinued. Despite six decades of neglect, the space still retains some incredible features, like remnant cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks and vaulted ceilings. It is also directly adjacent to the existing JMZ subway track at the Essex Street subway stop so park visitors and subway riders would interact daily. This hidden historic site is located in one of the least green areas of New York City presenting a unique opportunity to reclaim unused space for public good.
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