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Delancey Underground 'Low Line' Project Organizers Seek Funding

By Serena Solomon | December 1, 2011 4:14pm
The project would include solar technology that channels light into the subterranean space.
The project would include solar technology that channels light into the subterranean space.
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MANHATTAN — An ambitious plan to turn an abandoned trolley terminal on the Lower East Side into an indoor, solar-powered park is gaining momentum as organizers being to raise funds for the project.

Delancey Underground, nicknamed the "Low Line," wowed residents when co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch presented the much-hyped concept to Community Board 3 in September.

At the meeting, questions went unanswered as to how the lofty proposal, which would use solar technology to allow for underground plant growth, would be funded.  

Now that the MTA has warmed to the idea, meeting a half-dozen times with project organizers in the two months since the idea was unveiled, buzz is generating that the project could soon get off — or under — the ground.

“We've received an outpouring of support, excitement and offers to help,” read an email from Delancey Underground requesting donations for the project. “Now it's time to take this idea to the next level.”

The money received would finance a “formal study to assess engineering, constructability, and economic impact of this vibrant community green space,” according to the note from organizers.

Ramsey said the project is about working with the community to develop a space that will appeal to all who commit to its mission.

"Our vision is to improve this location through new, green technologies, innovative design, and real, genuine community engagement," he told DNAinfo. "We're committed to creating a beautiful, cutting-edge, and safe public space on the Lower East Side — and we think this will benefit all stakeholders."

The project seeks to transform the abandoned, nearly 2-acre terminal beneath the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp into a fully functional park space. The proposed park would stretch roughly from Clinton to Essex streets, and sits adjacent to the J/M/Z subway tracks.

Organizers also reached out for the support of local businesses owners, members of art and community groups, and people who are part of the design or real estate community. Those who have already aligned themselves with the cause include Robert Hammond and Joshua David, co-founders of the hugely successful High Line.

The MTA is yet to formally request proposals from interested parties, like Delancey Underground, that are interested in the space. But a spokesman for the agency called the idea as “intriguing.”

"Nothing has gotten as far advanced as the folks from the Delancey Underground," Donovan said of possible proposals for the space.

The MTA recently gave the underground space even more publicity by releasing a video tour the 60,000-square foot space. During the tour, MTA senior project manager Peter Hine does not mention the Delancey Underground project, but ponders the numerous revenue-generating possibilities of the space.

“I like to think it will be the DJ booth at whatever nightclub we build down here,” said Hine, as he points to a defunct dispatch tower in the derelict space.

When asked if the MTA's intent on making money from the vacant terminal clashed with the idea of free public use of the space, Donovan said it was too early to tell.

“We evaluate the responses based on the public benefit, revenue projections and potential impact on transit operations,” he said.