As the Highline has everyone looking up, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch are asking people to start looking down. James Ramsey’s vision to transform the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal into a subterranean park filled with sunlight and lush vegetation is gaining international attention and support. The satellite engineer turned architect has developed a skylight using fiber-optic technology that will naturally light and bring life to this forgotten, graffiti-covered cavity below the streets of New York City. Continue reading for more information, video and exclusive statements from Ramsey and Barasch.
Controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, this 1.5 acre SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area) plot has been vacant since 1948. The site runs about three blocks under Delancey Street between Essex Street and the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, just around the corner of RAAD (Ramsey Architecture And Design) studio.
Delancey Underground, also referred as “The Low Line”, will be New York Cities first underground park. The project aims to become a safe and beautiful gathering space for local residents and an attraction for the Lower East Side. ArchDaily had the opportunity to ask the project masterminds a couple questions. Why are you doing this project? What motivates you? James Ramsey: “The Delancey Underground project has many layers for me. From a design perspective, the idea that I might use this technological solution to completely and radically transform a historic space in a sci-fi and green way is incredibly compelling. From the perspective of someone whose architecture office is just down the street, it’s exciting that we might be able to revitalize our community by completely rethinking how public spaces are created.” Daniel Barasch: “I am personally excited about the potential of reclaiming abandoned urban spaces to showcase new design and new technologies. I’m also motivated about the very real need to promote innovative cleaner energy sources to power humanity’s demands– and especially excited to be at the forefront of solar power. And as a resident of the Lower East Side with several generations of New Yorkers on both sides of my family, I’m proud to be part of an effort that could potentially enhance and positively transform one of America’s most historic neighborhoods.” Which are the main challenges to get this project moving forward? James Ramsey: “There are of course myriad technical issues involved in making this project a reality, but I am confident that we will be able to design solutions to all of these. Given the numerous overlapping layers of political and community interests in such a dense location, we will also need to work very closely with local organizations to build this together.” Daniel Barasch: “Funding and political will. Right now our focus is on creating a sense of inevitability on both fronts: raising the capital required to explore the idea further and also to sustain and increase interest among political leaders and the community.”
To ensure the success of the project, Ramsey and Barasch plan to conduct a formal feasibility study that will assess cost, impact and strategy. They hope to acquire enough funding for construction and maintenance costs through donations, grant money, public money and revenue. Increased political and community support will help the project immensely. A fundraiser event is planned for March and a large-scale technology demonstration will take place in May. The initial fundraising target is $450,000. Peter Hine of MTA Real Estate gives an in-depth tour of the existing site.