Delancey Underground Team Wows Community Board 3
“The Low Line,” a bold proposal to create a spectacular park under Delancey Street, has been a media obsession since last weekend. Last night, the team behind the Delancey Underground (the project’s official name) made their pitch to Community Board 3. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
James Ramsey and Daniel Barasch came to CB3’s land use committee with a brief Power Point Presentation and slick handouts for everyone in attendance. In introducing the pair, David McWater, the committee chairman, noted that the Lower East Side has a long history of “innovative thinking” and of incubating “off-the-wall ideas that later become widely accepted.” While the board is not yet being asked to vote in support of the proposal, McWater told committee members, “I thought this is something you’d like to see.”
Ramsey and Barasch covered many of the same points they made during our interview with them last weekend (click here, if you missed the story). There were a few new details, however.
For example, they discussed the possibility that “The Low Line” might include an underground passageway — giving pedestrians an alternative to the dangerous above-ground Delancey Street crossings.
Ramsey also said they are working on setting up a public demonstration of technology he has developed to transmit natural sunlight underground, something that would obviously be necessary if trees and other foliage are going to thrive below Delancey Street.
Following the presentation, numerous committee members said the concept seemed exciting and innovative. CB3 member Bernard Marti said he liked the idea, but was concerned about security below ground, in the post-9/11 world. Damaris Reyes, a public member, was also supportive of the proposal, but she said the abandoned trolley terminal would most likely work best as a mixed-use project. Specifically, Reyes suggested it was worth exploring whether part of the space could be devoted to underground parking. “It shouldn’t just be a tourist attraction,” she said.
On the other hand, Bob Zuckerman of the Lower East Side BID, argued that the neighborhood could use a new tourist attraction to lure more customers into stores and restaurants. He also brought up the prospect, floated by an MTA spokesperson, that the space might be a good spot for a “big box store.” Zuckerman said the idea “sounded crazy,” adding that the neighborhood has no appetite for “big box retail.”
Barasch acknowledged that the MTA would be compelled to entertain multiple bids for the space if it decides to develop the dormant train station. He emphasized that he and Ramsey are focused on reclaiming the Delancey Street terminal “for the community.”
It’s not completely clear who has jurisdiction over the space. While the MTA controls the area, CB3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta said he believed the financially troubled agency merely holds a long-term lease with the city. At any rate, any development plan would be subject to a public review process (which would include Community Board 3 approval).
Barasch and Ramsey concluded by telling committee members that they wanted the project to be a reflection of the community’s needs and wishes. They suggested there would be more opportunities in the future to help shape “The Low Line.”