Would you play in a park underground? This artist's rendering shows a deep underground park that could be created in a 116-year-old abandoned trolley terminal below the Lower East Side. At left, how it appears now (AP photos / The Lowline)
Would you play in a park underground?

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Visitors from around the world are drawn to New York City's High Line. It's an elevated park built on defunct railroad tracks transformed into an urban sanctuary of flowers, grass and trees.

Private planners inspired by the High Line's success are now looking deep under Manhattan at a proposal to create the Lowline. It could become the world's first underground park.

The project would occupy a 116-year-old abandoned trolley terminal below the Lower East Side. The area has been used for storage since 1948.

Street-level solar collectors would be used to filter the sun about 20 feet down to bedrock. That would turn the dank, subterranean space into a luminous, plant-filled oasis. The park would offer city residents a place of refuge. It could 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. Italian, Irish and German families made their first homes in America in its tenements.

"Many people once fought to move out of the Lower East Side. And now, their grandkids are fighting to get in," says Mark Miller. He is 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."

"We're simply taking over a space no one was using in a densely populated neighborhood that lacks sufficient public space," says Dan Barasch. He specializes in promoting socially innovative applications of technology.

He co-founded the nonprofit Lowline project with architect James Ramsey, a former NASA engineer. The park is expected to cost about $60 million in mostly private funds, plus some government money. More than $1 million has been raised for research and design.

Ramsey and Barasch got the idea for the project when they heard about the site that was once a trolley turnaround for the line that ran across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn.

"We'd already been playing with new solar technology," Barasch said. "And we fell more and more in love with the idea of this public space. So we put those two concepts together."

Barasch estimates it will take about five years before construction begins.

First, he says the Lowline team of three, plus hundreds of volunteers, must tackle some technical challenges. One is how to channel the natural sunlight from the collectors to the park below. Then, a way must be found to position the sunlight so it allows plants to grow.

Several high-tech companies already have used such systems to funnel natural illumination to previously light-inaccessible areas.

"But you can't just cut the street open," says Barasch.

Community members had their own questions at a Lowline presentation. Some asked where the street-level entrances would be, how the space would be ventilated and what kinds of plants would be brought in.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

Kerri Culhane, associate director of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, says the project will draw real estate investors while alienating longtime residents.

Critical thinking challenge: Why is natural sunlight essential to this project?

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  • CTiffani-Cas
    12/02/2014 - 09:56 p.m.

    I think the idea of an underground park is definitely something different, but it has it's faults. The fact of the matter is, an underground park would be a real hassle. It would take five years before construction would even begin, it would need some type of financial help from the government, and it's just not traditional.

  • vincentg-2
    12/03/2014 - 01:18 a.m.

    An underground trolley station in New York unnocupied since 1948 has been starting to attract some notice. Artists and architects of New York want to build an underground park in a particular part of town where it wouldn't be affecting anybody. Artists have designed a modern and almost space ship like model for this first. Solar panels would be intakes above this park to supply its electricity keeping it totally green. I definitely would want to got to this park, despite my fear of being trapped underground-_-.

  • wylanh-Tho
    12/03/2014 - 11:40 a.m.

    yes i would play in a beautiful park it looks so fun but i read the passage and a ticket cost from 1,ooo,ooo to 60,000,000 thats so crazy so think im not going to go when it gets built so i hope who ever gets to go i hope you have very much fun.

  • TR2001golden
    12/03/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    I think the natural sunlight is essential to this project because that is the whole point of a park. To not have natural sunlight it would just be like staying inside the whole time somebody was there. To go outside we need a lot of vitamin D and to get active.

  • L2000neon
    12/03/2014 - 01:04 p.m.

    I think its cool how there's a park underground because like if many people don't know about it, it could be like a secret hide out for you and your friends.

  • jschmidt-Cla
    12/03/2014 - 01:19 p.m.

    Awesome idea. This is a great way to bring a historical neighborhood back to life. Also, this will bring many people to the sight and even may bring revenue into the town.

  • rsaunders-Cla
    12/03/2014 - 01:21 p.m.

    I would go there its something new and intresting who ever thought of it is making alot of profit of it they should m ake a underground zoo or something that would be cool

  • maddie.4
    12/03/2014 - 01:26 p.m.

    I think an underground park would be a great idea! Especially in a place like this. It's a great way to fill a space that isn't being used and probably won't be used in the future.

  • Sandraj-OBr
    12/03/2014 - 01:33 p.m.

    The sunlight is important to this underground project because it is needed to grow plants and grass for the park! I would love to go to a park like this! The solar power brings the sun. There must be a solar panel outside, and a mechanism bringing the sunlight into the park. My cousin lives in New York, but she is going to move back to Canada this upcoming summer. I think this would be more popular than the Statue of Liberty!

  • Lincoln-Arm
    12/03/2014 - 04:28 p.m.

    Yes, I think I would play in an underground park. This was a great idea because it is turning a dark and unused place into a park which would be great spot for family recreation. It is basically updating the displace into a brand new beautiful big park which would be fin for many people in the city. Even though New York does have lots of tourists this could be another attraction for the city.

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