The idea of putting a giant subterranean park (or "Low Line") in the Lower East Side, a concept which New York Magazine brought to everyone's attention quite forcefully this week, comes with lots of questions. Like, where exactly are we talking about? And how will this not feel claustrophobic? Luckily for enquiring minds, in preparation for this weeks presentation to Community Board 3's land use committee, two of the men behind the idea of the Delancey Underground, James Ramsey and Daniel Barasch, are apparently quite happy to talk about their plans. Meanwhile, are we the only ones who can't help but think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's lair when thinking about this project?
Anyway, let's jump to the bullet points:
- So Where Is This Space? The underground station in question is right smack next to the finally-moving Seward Park Urban Renewal Area and it is HUGE. A former trolley terminal, the space hasn't been used by the public since it closed in 1948 and when Ramsey and Barasch saw it they were blown away. “It was this massive, expansive space, and they turned on a couple of lights,” Ramsey told The Lo-Down, describing what they saw like this: "It had a pretty profound effect on all of us… it was only when we went down there that we were able to see its cool archeological qualities. This thing was built at the turn of the last century, so it’s still cobblestone. The cobblestones are covered in dirt, but they’re there. These old tracks, this barrel vaulted ceiling. It’s pretty spectacular in that respect."
- Won't It Feel A Little Cramped? Yes, the idea of an underground park sounds claustrophobic, but it needn't be. Beyond the whole "sunlight filtered in through fiber optics" idea the team is pushing for, they point out that, "Because there’s no elevated platform in this portion of the space, the ceilings feel very high, so it does not feel claustophobic and dark, like a messy subway station. It has the effect of being much larger."
- Are They Cool With The Neighbors? So far, yes. The pair are actively trying not to make enemies or hold up the decades-in-the-making SPURA project. They just think the neighborhood could use more green space. “This area right here, I feel like, is so bereft of this kind of thing, of this kind of interesting space, of public areas, parks in general.”
- Who Is Going To Pay For This Thing? In a perfect world, not you. The team is aware that this kind of thing does not come cheap...and they have some ideas about dealing with that. The success of the High Line in raising money is clearly an inspiration (though this space won't have the same ability to foster architecture nearby as that park). To that end, they've turned to money manager R. Boykin Curry IV for help. He tells the Lo-Down that, "I think we are well positioned to raise significant private capital for it, look at opportunities for grants or loans—we are not expecting the city to pay for anything substantial—but we have a couple of ideas of how we might start financing this in a creative way."
Considering the immediate and pretty overwhelming excitement the idea has garnered, tomorrow's presentation at (University Settlement at 184 Eldridge Street, 6:30 p.m.) should be a fun time.