SemaConnect Blog


April 3, 2012

New York City’s Underground Eco Park

By Philip Blum
An underground trolley terminal is being reconstructed in the heart of New York City’s Lower East Side.  The revitalize project could bring a new park to the city’s underground and an innovative solar lighting technology to the forefront of sustainability.

Located at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, the park covers approximately 1.5 acres of NYC’s underground.  Roughly a football field in size, the location is well-known to architects and city planners in the metropolitan area.  Robert Moses, the famed twentieth century builder, helped to demolish the sprawling tenement buildings that were located in the area, making room for a more modern example of public housing.  The Lower East Side housed many first generation immigrant families until the turn of the century.
As the former site of Williamsburg Trolley Terminal, the park construction will also make an impact on many of the pedestrians in the area as well.  The intersection at Delancey and the Williamsburg Bridge is one of the most dangerous in Manhattan.  As one of the busiest and widest streets in the city, the underground terminal may steer pedestrians away from the commotion and traffic above.
Similar to the recently constructed High Line Park, which transformed an abandoned elevated rail track in the Upper West Side, the new Eco Park will also bring foliage to an abandoned Industrial Age structure.
As the brain child of James Ramsey, of RAAD Studios (NYC architectural firm), and Dan Barasch, Vice President of the social innovation network at PopTech,  the Low Line Eco Park will harvest light from the streets above.  The new solar lighting technology was invented by Ramsey after working for NASA before transitioning to design.  The lighting system captures concentrated sunlight and transfers it underground through a network of fiber optic cables.  The solar lighting will not only filter light to the space but allow the subterranean park to house 60,000 feet of flowers, trees and ponds.  The process will also block harmful UV rays, propagating a healthy, natural light throughout the underground space.
Rather than demolish historic spaces like this, a new generation of architects are attempting to shine a greener light on urban renewal.  Utilizing existing structures and features, architects can cut on costs and save valuable materials in exchange for existing ones.  Installing green technologies can make the urban renewal process not only conservationist, but sustainable for a period of time.
The project has come a long way since its start and is finally gaining the attention of the transit authority, who currently owns the space.  Thanks to its popularity kickstarter.com, the project has raised a feasible amount of support and money.  Visit the project’s home website at Delancey Underground.
Philip Blum is a recent graduate from Pratt Institue in Brooklyn New York.  He is the Multimedia Intern at SemaConnect.

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