It’s been awhile since we’ve heard an update about the Lowline, the proposal to build an innovative park and events space below Delancey Street. Today there’s word of a new effort to move the project through the bureaucratic maze that is city and state government.
Lowline founders Dan Barasch and James Ramsey have been trying to persuade the MTA, which controls the site, to give the go-ahead for the park. Today local elected officials weighed in, releasing a letter they’ve sent to city officials. It was addressed to Kyle Kimball, executive director of the NYC Economic Development Corp. Here’s the full text:
We are writing to ask you to initiate discussions with the MTA about transferring control of the former Williamsburg Trolley Terminal property to the city, a first step in creating a project known as the Lowline. As you may know, the proposal for the Lowline is to convert an abandoned, historic trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street into a new, subterranean public space, which will serve as a cultural and community amenity for the residents of our districts and throughout the city. The project is well supported by the community, having received our endorsements, as well as many in the local business community, and Manhattan Community Board 3. As the elected officials representing the neighborhood, we believe this new public space will greatly benefit our community. In addition, there are likely to be economic benefits. As a study conducted by HR&A Advisors and Arup shows, the Lowline could generate at least $15-$30 million in economic benefit to the city by way of increased sales, hotel and real estate taxes and incremental land value, and would create 560 full time equivalent jobs during construction. As a year-round public amenity, it will be a draw for tourists and residents alike, helping spur daytime activity and a new, larger customer base for local small businesses. Finally, by using groundbreaking solar technology, the Lowline will also set an example as an adaptive reuse of an abandoned underground space. The MTA leadership has signaled to us a willingness to enter into direct discussions to explore the process of transferring the site from MTA to city control and we would greatly appreciate if EDC would begin this process. Thank you for your consideration of our request.
In the past, the MTA has partnered with the Economic Development Corp. to find new uses for some of its real estate holdings. Officials with the cash-strapped transit agency have apparently concluded that the EDC is best equipped to help facilitate the transfer of the old trolley terminal below Delancey Street. In the past, there’s been talk of incorporating the Lowline project into the plans for the adjacent Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan. The EDC has resisted this idea on the theory that the Seward Park process was complicated enough without folding in the Lowline.
A short time ago, Barasch told us he’s gratified that all of the Lower East Side’s elected officials have lined up in support of the Lowline. Initiating a conversation between the MTA and the EDC, he said, would be an “intermediate step” that making it possible to access the legal status of the site. The subterranean space is part of the MTA’s master lease from the city.
Today’s letter was signed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Dan Squadron and City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez.