The Lowline has tens of millions of dollars, connections to a billion-dollar real estate certainty, and Lena Dunham. James Murphy's #SubwaySymphony project has 14,000 tweets, three YouTube videos, and a beer sponsorship. Like a remora affixing its suction-capped dorsal fin to an expressionless nurse shark, the campaign to change the noises that subway turnstiles make has joined up with some of the most powerful economic interests in New York City.
According to a press release from Heineken, a working model of Murphy's melodic turnstiles will be installed in the Lowline's "above-ground research and exploration hub" on Essex Street between Rivington and Stanton beginning the last weekend in November. Soon you'll be able to experience what life is like...when the sound that comes out of the subway turnstiles is noticeably different.
"Like Subway Symphony, The Lowline project is an idea that demonstrates how New Yorkers are always excited to innovate, improve the city and find new ways to make life a little bit better for everyone," said Ralph Rijks, vice president of marketing at Heineken USA. "Our Cities campaign aims to make great cities even greater, and we're excited to give visitors a chance to try out the Subway Symphony project in this stunning environment."
Murphy has supported the Lowline in the past, DJ'ing at last year's Anti-Gala benefit for the subterranean, solar-powered, 50,000 square-foot park that is projected to cost around $70 million. (Last night's Anti-Gala, where the new collaboration was announced, cost $2,000/ticket.)
The Lowline, whose board includes investment bankers, CEOs, real estate developers, the owner of the Brooklyn Bowl, and a former SVP at Brookfield Properties, has released a study claiming that its existence alongside the $1.1 billion Essex Crossing project along Delancey Street would raise property values and tax revenues by tens of millions of dollars.
In his essential reading of the Lowline, Kevin Sweeting said it best: "That someone would look ahead at Essex Crossing’s years-long, 1.1-billion-dollar project of neighborhood redefinition and think, 'what else can we do to raise property values in this area' is as best a summary of New York real estate as I can find."
The Lowline also has to earn the approval of the MTA—it's their unused trolly terminal, after all—the same entity that made James Murphy and Heineken agree in writing that their idea "cannot be implemented."
Yet the MTA's current concern is the same as it was in 2011, when it first entertained the Lowline's pitch: “We’re looking at it very seriously because we need the money."
In this way, #SubwaySymphony's strategy mirrors the Lowline's: Hitch a ride on the money shark!
At a time when community gardens (the above-ground, pure-sunlight kind without commercial space or "your favorite concert venue") are being seized by the same real estate interests that have made it extremely difficult for most everyone to live here, and the MTA has to borrow money to eventually raise your subway fares, isn't it nice that the richest among us are spending their disposable income to "make life a little bit better for everyone"?