Visitors from around the world are drawn to New York City’s High Line, an elevated park built on defunct railroad tracks transformed into an urban sanctuary of flowers, grasses and trees.
Private planners inspired by the High Line’s success are now looking deep under Manhattan at a proposal to create the Lowline, billed as the world’s first underground park.
The project would occupy a 116-year-old abandoned trolley terminal below the Lower East Side that’s been used for storage since 1948.
Street-level solar collectors would be used to filter the sun about 20 feet down to bedrock, turning the dank, subterranean space into a luminous, plant-filled oasis. The park would offer city residents a place of refuge and host art exhibits, music performances, readings and children’s activities.
The Lowline is only one part of a Lower East Side revitalization project.
The neighborhood has an important place in the history of immigration. At the turn of the last century, newly arriving Italian, Irish and German families made their first homes in America in its tenements. So many Jewish families settled in the neighborhood that it has been called “the American-Jewish Plymouth Rock.”
“Many people once fought to move out of the Lower East Side, and now, their grandkids are fighting to get in,” says Mark Miller, an art gallery owner whose family ran businesses there since the late 19th century. “It’s come full circle; it’s hip, happening and historic.”
The planners ? New York residents who’ve worked or lived in the area ? say they’re not erasing the legacy of Orchard, Delancey and Rivington streets, once home to the likes of Irving Berlin, George Burns, Jimmy Cagney, Zero Mostel and Lucky Luciano.