Lowline plan gets boost

- Lowline in name, high in ambition describes this first-of-a-kind 50,000-square-foot park completely underground. It is the stuff of imagination -- until now. The city has just given the green light for Lowline to take over an abandoned trolley terminal below Delaney Street. It would be a public outdoor space, in a basement, only in New York.

The space is the size of a football field below the southern half of Delaney Street; from about Essex Street on the left, or west, to Clinton Street on the right, or east. The prototype park is experimenting in the Lowline Lab nearby, with ways to get natural sunlight below. Installed on a roof, a high-powered reflector feeds a receptor, funneling light well underground to the park. Ingenuity.

With the light pouring in, experiments are underway to introduce a range of trees and plants, from coconuts to pineapples to green onions. And it is looking pretty lush. Enough light is streaming in to even have a rainbow, of sorts.

The Lowline has just achieved a major victory getting the city to approve. But the group has little time to celebrate as it wants to finish this project in 5 years for which they'll need to fundraise $60 million.

The Lowline has gotten this far from a pair of Kickstarter campaigns that brought in $400,000 from about 6,000 donors. Not quite $60 mil, but either way, but deputy director Robyn Shapiro says the park will be free to the public. The project is focused on giving the community some badly needed outdoor space, despite some jabs at spending $60 million for an underground park, coming from the New Yorkers they want to help.

With 12 more acres of abandoned underground space across the city, the Lowline may shed more than just light to plants below but to a host of new ideas for public spaces.

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