A new Kickstarter campaign aims to bring sunlight underground for the world's first subterranean park

Screen Shot 2015 06 11 at 11.06.32 AMRaad StudioA rendering of the Lowline.

New Yorkers have many interesting options when it comes to parks. There’s the cultural oasis of Washington Square Park, the 38-acre wilderness of Central Park, or the elevated walkway that is the High Line. But a new proposal for a Lower East Side park promises to outdo them all … because it is underground.

Now, a group on Kickstarter wants to develop solar technology to bring sunlight to the subterranean, aptly named Lowline Park, which would be constructed beneath Delancey Street in a 107-year-old former trolley station.

“My dream is to build the world’s first underground park in New York City,” said Lowline co-founder and Executive Director Dan Barasch in a 2014 TED talk. “My generation is focused on reclaiming the spaces we already have, rediscovering our shared history, and reimagining how we can make our communities more interesting, more beautiful, and more just.”

Screen Shot 2015 06 11 at 11.06.09 AMKickstarter/LowlineThe abandoned trolley station below Delancey Street in 2013.

The proposed park — the first of its kind in the world — would be an acre of open public space complete with live trees, bushes, and grass, as well as a reflecting pool and vaulted ceilings that would shine sunlight into the park via tubes that capture sunlight reflected off mirrors perched on nearby rooftops.

“Our plan in a nutshell is to draw natural sunlight underground using a simple system that harvests sunlight above the street, directs it below the city footpaths, and would allow plants and trees to grow with the light that is directed underneath,” Barasch explained in his TED talk.

This process of capturing sunlight and funelling it underground is why the Lowline group — a 501c3 non-profit — is turning to Kickstarter. They are hoping to raise $US200,000 within the next month (as of now they have raised $US36,473) to build the open exhibition “Lowline Lab,” where they will test and perfect the technology.

The testing phase is expected to last from September 2015 to February 2016, to see how the technology works in warmer and colder weather. They will also use the lab to see what kinds of horticulture the solar technology can support, and to measure community engagement in the Lowline.

Screen Shot 2015 06 11 at 11.06.51 AMKickstarter/LowlineA rendering for the Lowline solar canopy from 2012, reflecting natural sunlight indoors.

The Lowline launched in earnest in 2011 and, and its founders have spent the past four years researching and refining the solar technology and engaging with the community. According to a timeline on their website, if all goes to plan with the lab, the next steps would be to complete negotiations with the city and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (which currently owns the site), and then start another fundraising campaign to secure the capital necessary to build the park.

They hope for the park to be open to the public sometime between 2018 and 2020.

See Barasch’s full TED talk here:

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