On 10th Anniversary of its Conception, $83M Lowline Still Years Away

Posted on: April 9th, 2019 at 5:04 am by

At the Lowline Lab, Oct. 2015

The Lowline subterranean park concept this year celebrates a decade on the boards. A decade of proposals, blueprints, and bureaucratic red tape.

Any news of its progress since the 2016 Lowline Lab concept on Essex Street has been silent, to say the least. Lost in a sea of completing local headlines about Essex Crossing.

The Guardian publication checked in with co-founders Dan Barasch and James Ramsey for a refresher of the project. It’s all pretty well worn territory, but buried in the writeup is the update that the Lowline itself will likely debut sometime in 2021.

As previously reported, the proposed tech-savvy park will reside in the old trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street (it’s visible in the Essex Street subway station).

The idea for the Lowline germinated in 2009, co-founded by Barasch and Ramsey as the Delancey Underground. It was polarizing from the beginning; many locals feared a hyper-gentrification scenario similar to the High Line, while supporters thought it a boon for the community.

Ramsey and Barasch, however, don’t see the Lowline as an addendum to the neighbourhood’s propulsive modernisation so much as a vehicle for community engagement. Barasch invokes the sociologist Eric Klinenberg, whose book Palaces For The People argues for a new “social infrastructure” or spaces, ranging from libraries and churches to community gardens and even sidewalks, that enhance civic life and human connection. The idea is that, with renewed investment in public and private institutions of this sort, these spaces function as a kind of social scaffolding. And Barasch insists that, as much as architectural dogma suggests otherwise, good design and social responsibility don’t have to be in contention with one another. In fact, he hopes his experience of “swimming between sectors” and Ramsey’s design bona fides will allow them to corral the funding, political support and communal goodwill to create something that’s both socially conscious and architecturally unprecedented.

“The Lower East Side has a very large proportion of public housing, many vulnerable residents, a very diverse population, and it’s developing rapidly,” Barasch says. “What’s needed for communities to thrive are public spheres where you attract different kinds of people. As populations grow and there’s that rising tension between affluent and low-income residents, the question becomes: what kind of equity are we providing these people when it comes to open space? What the Lowline would do is create that, and also create a year-round open space, which would be first of its kind.”

Team Lowline landed public support through its relentless marketing and community outreach. Despite local opposition at the Community Board level, they ultimately got the go-ahead from the city in 2016.

Recent Stories

Moxy on the Bowery is Still Happening, After All

Nearly three years later, the Moxy Hotel planned for 151 Bowery appears on pause. But its parent company, Marriott, is betting that this property, among others, will help shepherd in the rebound. A neighbor who lives nearby noticed that construction was halted at the beginning of the year, with little movement since. At the time, materials […]

Here’s the Glassy 12-Story Newcomer Headed to Ludlow Street

The halo of Essex Crossing continues to upscale the composition of the adjacent blocks. Towers just keep rising. And another is planned for a former produce wholesaler on Ludlow Street. While construction permits were filed one year ago for 89-91 Ludlow, only now is the proposed design available for public consumption. The glassy newcomer is […]

The Slipper Room to Reopen for Variety Shows April 23

With city and state restrictions on venues gradually relaxing, performance venues are trickling back to life. Here on the Lower East Side, the latest to resume its nighttime entertainment is the Slipper Room. The self-proclaimed “Palace of Variety” announced its return to the fray with variety shows starting April 23. It’s been a yearlong slumber […]

Asian Woman Attacked in Grand Street Bodega After Asking Man to Wear a Mask

Another anti-Asian attack to report on the Lower East Side. An Asian woman shopping in a Grand Street bodega was attacked after asking a man to wear a mask while inside, cops said yesterday. Tuesday evening, a 39-year-old shopper inside the Heng Yun Grocery at 329 Grand Street (near Orchard) asked one Carlos Mackey, 35, […]

New Renderings for Long-Stalled Delancey Street Condo

The 12-story “boutique condo” at the corner of Delancey and Pitt Streets – in the works for nine years already – dropped its marketing materials this week. It’s pitched as a “one-of-a-kind-building,” but doesn’t mention proximity to the Williamsburg Bridge span. As in, right across the street. The teaser website went live earlier this week, […]