Will New York’s Next High Line Be an Underground Park on the Lower East Side?

09/19/2011 1:00 PM |

Presenting the Low Line, with ceilings by Anish Kapoor?
  • Presenting the Low Line, with ceilings by Anish Kapoor?

Everybody loves the High Line, not only because it’s a pretty and unique urban park with incredible views, but also because it brings billions of dollars (from taxes, tourism and developers) to a neighborhood formerly frequented only by gallery-hoppers and, before them, factory workers. Now another neighborhood once known for factories and in the midst of a gallery renaissance, the Lower East Side, is eying an unusual venue for its own tourist attraction park: an abandoned underground trolley station.

Tentatively dubbed “The Low Line,” this imaginative design by RAAD Studio would occupy a vast underground space beneath Delancey Street that used to be a trolley station when there were still trolleys crossing the Williamsburg Bridge (see illustration at bottom). While the disused subterranean locale currently resembles an ideal venue for the next Underbelly Project, the Chrystie Street-based architecture firm is hoping to turn it into an underground oasis by using solar collectors on the street above to transmit sunlight below ground through a fiber optic lighting system.

The Low Line, a haven for models and the fitness-obsessed.
  • The Low Line, a haven for models and the fitness-obsessed.

What’s perhaps most unbelievable about this scheme is that it’s not strictly a design experiment. Bowery Boogie reports that RAAD will be presenting its plan for The Low Line to Community Board 3’s Land Use Zoning committee on Wednesday. Even with CB3’s approval, it will be many years (and funds) before the Low Line sees the light of day, so to speak.

Williamsburg Bridge cross-section, circa 1903.
  • Williamsburg Bridge cross-section, circa 1903.

(Williamsburg Bridge drawing: NYPL)