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FutureStructures: The Lowline

Set in an abandoned trolley terminal in the New York City subway, the high-tech Delancey Underground could be the world's first underground park.

The Delancey Underground is an initiative to build the first underground park in an abandoned trolley terminal in the New York City subway system. In this episode of Futurestructures, we meet Dan Barasch, social director and co-founder of the project, and his co-founder James Ramsey, a former NASA engineer, who has devised the technology that uses bowl-like collectors and fiber optic wire to funnel sunlight from the street above, bathing the park in natural daylight and allowing enough light for plants to thrive.

The park, also known as the LowLine, isn't just an underground version of the High Line, the famous privately-financed park that sits atop elevated railway tracks in Chelsea; it's a novel kind of recycled urban space that's part science, part science-fiction. (See a video about the "sunlights" here.) So far, Barasch and Ramsey have managed to raise $150,000 through Kickstarter, some of which recently went to launching a full-size exhibition near the proposed site; now they're hoping that a combination of donations, grant money, public money and revenue from a limited number of shops inside the space will help cover construction and maintenance. Earlier this year Barasch and Ramsey presented their plan to Lower East Side alliances, the Parks department and the local community board, which heartily .

The proposed site -- the Delancey trolley terminal

They'll also need the support of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the terminal. The MTA hasn't commited to any particular proposal, but has said it's focused on gathering "creative entities to look towards doing revenue generating projects" for the abandoned station. In a video it released last year, the head of real estate for the MTA described the history of the old trolley terminal, which was built in 1903 to house the old Williamsburg Bridge trolleys, and for the future, imagined recreation facilities, shops, or a restaurant or nightclub. In other words, the future of the space is uncertain, but the LowLine guys are determined to turn it into a place that would transform the Lower East Side and the way we think about parks.