Last week I was fortunate enough to experience something brand-new to me here in New York. The Lowline in the Lower East Side opened up its lab section in October of 2015. I was finally able to go and see for myself what their proposed concept of underground nature was all about. After entering the premises through a subway turnstile, I was standing in front of some carefully designed posters, informing myself about the history of the place and the general idea.
The LES is known for its diverse amount of immigrants and foreigners, which came here in the latter half of the 19th century up until the mid-20th century (and of course still do today). Mostly Europeans settled there, from East to West a wide array of cultural, ethnic and religious groups. And of course it was a primarily Jewish neighborhood for most throughout the 20th century, until it gave ways to a wave of artists and other characters, which turned the streets into an entirely different terrain.
With the influx of immigrants came the need for transportation and one of them was the irreplaceable and valuable subway system. The LES had its own rail system, with its most significant one being the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal right below Delancey Street. The Trolley Terminal was in service from 1908 to 1948 and remained forgotten for six full decades afterwards. Until one of the founders of the Lowline stumbled across it and had the idea of using the one-acre large, abandoned and half-forgotten space for public good and enrichment.
The overall concept of the Lowline is quite interesting and socially far-reaching: Through various solar-power-techniques a wide array of plants is meant to receive natural sunlight and artificial light so that a park can grow and thrive underground. The initial idea came about when the founders posed the question of how more green spaces could be added to a city as intensely populated as New York. Instead of going the above-ground route, such as various others have done before, the founders of the Lowline instead went underground in order to add more quality of life to the Big Apple. The exact details and concept can be seen when visiting the Lowline or in the about section of the website.
In addition to green spaces, public art, music and other cultural enrichments could be added, creating a unique hang-out spot for New Yorkers (especially during the colder months). Another pet peeve would be that the Lowline could be easily accessible by public transport when merely exiting the subway terminal at Delancey Street.
After reading through the array of posters, I turned a corner and found myself in a peculiar and almost magical spot: Lush greens, flowers, and other blooms which were sprouting underground. Small caves carved underneath the greens, in which children were hiding and playing. Smiling and laughing adults, cheerful kids, and a few curious tourists. I can see why a project like the Lowline can add more quality of life to a New Yorker’s busy lifestyle. Here is to hoping it can become implemented in the near future.
The Lowline Lab (which presents a short version of the full concept) is viewable until March of 2016 in the Lower East Side right off Delancey Street.