The World’s First Underground Park

It is only fitting that New York City be the first site of a green park located underground in a former trolley terminal.

Aug 7, 2015

A sketch of what Lowline, the first underground park, will look like when completed. [Facebook]

Hidden away under New York's Lower East Side lies the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, dormant since 1948. Despite its six decades of slumber, the space remains in good condition, sporting funky features like original cobblestones, vaulted ceilings and crisscrossed rail tracks. One look at the abandoned terminal was all it took for architect James Ramsey to dream up a new incarnation for the space: a thriving, green, underground park.

Lowline is the name of this ambitious project, anticipated to open in 2018. So, how will plants and trees grow below ground in a dark subway terminal? Natural sunlight will be harnessed with strategically placed glass shields, gathered at one focal point, then directed underground to transmit sunlight. Together with his partner Dan Barasch, Ramsey believes that during periods of sunlight, electricity won’t even be necessary to light the underground park. To prove the point, the innovative team created a full-scale prototype in 2012 in an abandoned warehouse.

Lowline has been in the works since 2011, garnering significant attention and support with its successful Kickstarter campaign. The project also caught the eye of actress and director Lena Dunham, who sees the project as the wave of the future.

While Lowline still has a couple of years until completion, a community around the initiative has come together. With a focus on building community partnerships, Lowline has facilitated programs that invite students in local area schools to design their vision of Lowline as well as opening the Lowline Lab, a free community gathering space that will display solar technology and will feature cultural and community events.

Lowline is a bold and passionate idea that will see an old train station repurposed into a modern underground garden oasis open to the whole community – the future has never looked so good.

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