Can the LowLine do for the Lower East Side what the High Line has done for the Far West Village, Chelsea, and Hudson Yards area? We don’t know, but one of the keys to the success of the High Line is that it was already there. It wasn’t a manufactured attraction. It had unparalleled rights-of-ways through buildings and across properties that would never grant such rights today. The same might be true of the Low Line. The space already exists below properties that would never grant such right of ways today. The key is finding the right way to handle the light and use of the space.
The high line boosted the value of real estate properties in formerly secondary areas. The cost of apartment rentals in Chelsea skyrocketed the closer they were to the high line. Anyone looking for a no fee apartment in NY was always able to count on the West 20s and West 30s for a selection of reasonably priced apartments. Will the LowLine do the same for the Lower East Side? Will no fee apartments close to the LowLine suddenly skyrocket in cost? We don’t have the answers, but it seems that, just like the High Line, the opportunity is absolutely unique and can’t be passed up. The loss of moderately priced apartments in the immediate vicinity of this unique space isn’t a reason not to take advantage of a once in a generation opportunity to enhance the human spaces in NYC.
Garth Johnston / Gothamist
The Lowline could really happen—but don’t take our word for it, go see for yourself. With The Highline’s final phase planned, it was about time Manhattan’s newest crazy-idea-turned-real-possibility came a little closer to fruition—and to that end the potential park in the abandoned trolley terminal beneath the LES is offering a free “proof of concept” exhibit from September 15 through 27. It is awesome.
Located in the Essex Market Building D at Essex and Delancey, right above where the park would go, the demonstration of how the Lowline team could put a park underground is small—and does raise questions—but it also shows real potential. In the middle of a dark abandoned space visitors walk through dark curtains, past some interesting graduate student work Audi and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, blah blah blah and then through one more set of curtains and BOOM. There she is.
Out of the darkness you come across a beautiful tiny indoor “park” designed and executed by designer Misty Gonzalez to show that plants could live off of the not-as-minimal-as-you’d-think light provided by the gorgeous solar technologies from above it. Of course, the plants you see in the demo wouldn’t be the ones that would actually grow in the park—if it even happens. To that end, Gonzalez told us that she’d need at least a year to study the microclimate of the Lowline space in order to “choreograph the plantings” to the light and air The canopies should provide between .05 and 500 footcandles of light. She was happy to muse on all sorts of possibilities, however, including plantings that would reflect the seasons which wouldn’t necessarily have to be the case and obscure planting, including bioluminescent ones!
Above the bonsai park is the just as impressive 35′ aluminum and steel canopy, the 600-plus pieces of which designer Ed Jacobs tells us were all fabricated in the city. Though the technology on Essex Street isn’t exactly what is being proposed for the Lowline mostly because it doesn’t move light around with fiber optics it does show just how much natural light can be focused and diffused from a small area out into a dark, essentially lightless space with just a little bit of ingenuity.
Still have doubts? Really the best way to understand just how cool this project could be is to go and check it out yourself. You have until the 27th.
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