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Using cutting-edge fiber optics to channel natural sunlight underground, the Delancey Underground or “Lowline” project would transform an unused trolley station into New York’s first subterranean green space.

“IMAGINE PEOPLE LYING ON A SUBTERRANEAN LAWN,” James Ramsey told the Village Voice. Until I read that line I couldn’t fully grasp how badass this project really is. Like all great ideas, it’s actually super simple: if you live in an urban area with no available green space, create it underground.

Delancey Underground visionaries Dan Barasch and James Ramsey are working with the MTA and local communities in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to transform the former Williamsburg trolley terminal (out of commission since 1948) into the world’s first underground park.

Remote skylight. Rendering by raad studio.

Cutting-edge solar technology: “Remote Skylight”

To build the park, the team has invented a new technology called a “remote skylight.”

The remote skylight uses “a system of optics to gather sunlight, concentrate it, and reflect it below ground, where it is dispersed by a solar distributor dish embedded in the ceiling. The light irrigated underground will carry the necessary wavelengths to support photosynthesis — meaning we can grow plants, trees, and grasses underground. The cables block harmful UV rays that cause sunburn, so you can leave the SPF-45 at home.”

Community support and next steps

The project has already gotten “a ton of support from the community and the city,” and the next step is to create a full-scale installation of the technology and concept as a demonstration for the MTA, the community, and supporters, who are welcome to visit.

Please see the Lowline Project’s Kickstarter page for more information and to become a supporter.



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

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