The Lowline, a Fancy Underground Park, Is Pressing the EDC With a Letter Backed by State and Local Pols


A year ago, designers Dan Barasch and James Ramsey made headlines for their plan to build an underground park where a turn-of-the-century trolley concourse used to be. The Internet hype machine revved its engines, and soon the Lowline Kickstarter had collected over $155,000 to begin the design process. Unfortunately, media excitement over the project was not enough to bring the project to fruition, and the idea to build a naturally lit underground park got trapped in the morass of city bureaucracy. Now, Barasch and Ramsey are bringing out the big guns, getting big-name city and state politicians to co-sign a letter to the Economic Development Corporation to please, please, please give them the go-ahead.

Here is the letter in full:

We are writing to ask you to initiate discussions with the MTA about transferring control of the former Williamsburg Trolley Terminal property to the city, a first step in creating a project known as the Lowline. As you may know, the proposal for the Lowline is to convert an abandoned, historic trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street into a new, subterranean public space, which will serve as a cultural and community amenity for the residents of our districts and throughout the city. The project is well supported by the community, having received our endorsements, as well as many in the local business community, and Manhattan Community Board 3. As the elected officials representing the neighborhood, we believe this new public space will greatly benefit our community. In addition, there are likely to be economic benefits. As a study conducted by HR&A Advisors and Arup shows, the Lowline could generate at least $15-$30 million in economic benefit to the city by way of increased sales, hotel and real estate taxes and incremental land value, and would create 560 full time equivalent jobs during construction. As a year-round public amenity, it will be a draw for tourists and residents alike, helping spur daytime activity and a new, larger customer base for local small businesses. Finally, by using groundbreaking solar technology, the Lowline will also set an example as an adaptive reuse of an abandoned underground space. The MTA leadership has signaled to us a willingness to enter into direct discussions to explore the process of transferring the site from MTA to city control and we would greatly appreciate if EDC would begin this process.

Among the pols to sign on to the project: Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand; state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez; Manhattan Borough President and candidate for comptroller Scott Stringer; state Senator Dan Squadron; and City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez.

If that kind of political muscle doesn’t push through the project, what will?

(h/t: Lo-Down NY)

*The letter was in fact addressed the New York Development Corporation, not the MTA. The Voice regrets the error.