New York City already has the High Line, but another project is making headway: The Delancey Underground. A group inspired by the “park in the sky” is now floating the idea of an underground public space made from a 1.5 acre former old trolley terminal.
From 1903 to 1948 trolleys ran between the lower east side and Brooklyn, and this terminal — which extends underground from Essex Street to the Williamsburg Bridge — was used as a turnaround area for the trolley cars. The Delancey Underground group envisions installing a cutting edge “remote skylight” technology that would collect light through an optical system, concentrate it into a fiber cable and distribute it below street level throughout the old tunnel. Co-founder James Ramsey explained how the light works to a reporter at Time magazine: “Basically, we treat light like a liquid. It’s a system of optics that concentrates natural sunlight into a bead then channels it through tubes to where it needs to go and then redistributes it via a separate set of optics.”
The light would sustain plants and trees, as well as human activity. Plans call for retail space and a pathway for pedestrians and promenaders. Check out the slideshow below to see a rendering of how this “sky collector” system works.
For more information visit the Delancey Underground website. At the bottom of the project page you can download a “low line” pdf that has lots of information about the status of the project and wonderful photos, including some archival ones. If your appetite is whetted by what you find there, go to YouTube and watch Peter Hine, an MTA official, give a video tour of the old Essex Street station, which he calls “this remarkable, ghostly place.” This short video illustrates a unique quality of the Delancey project: once underground in the new greenway, you’ll be just steps away from the working subway, which is clearly visible through the columns of the tunnel. You could actually wave to commuters standing on the platform as you stroll along the old trolley tracks.
Check out the slideshow of images, which includes archival photos, architectural renderings, and images of the site as it appears today. Visit the official website.