Last night, Community Board 3’s land use committee voted unanimously (with two members abstaining) to support the Delancey Underground, the high profile plan to bring a park to a 60,000 square foot abandoned trolley terminal. Project co-founders Dan Barasch and James Ramsey outlined the proposal for CB3 last fall, and received a warm reception, but no vote was taken following the initial presentation. CB3’s endorsement will become official after the full board votes later this month.
During last night’s meeting, Barasch updated his organization’s progress, noting the completion of a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, numerous overtures to Lower East Side organizations and the beginning of a planning study to access the feasibility of the proposal. In a packet passed out to community board members, there were letters of support from the presidents of the the Seward Park and Hillman Cooperatives. Barasch said there were plans to reach out to other residential communities in the area, including the Seward Park Extension, the Vladeck Houses and the Baruch Houses.
He described plans for an exhibition to be held during the month of September in a vacant Essex Street market building. The public demonstration is meant to prove the viability of solar technology necessary to illuminate the subterranean park and to seek input from the community about the design. Barasch also said the organization would be unveiling a plan to raise the millions of dollars necessary to create the project.
Several committee members wanted assurances that the Delancey Underground would, as CB3 member Lisa Kaplan put it, “reflect the diverse needs of the Lower East Side” and not further divide and gentrify the neighborhood. Barasch said his group has sought to involve people from all walks of life on the LES and he welcomed participation from anyone interested in helping to shape the plan.
David McWater, the committee chairman, urged a “yes” vote, noting that no other organization has come forward with a plan for the dormant space. He suggested the MTA, which controls the former trolley terminal, would happily rent it to Walmart or some other “big box” retailer. This organization, McWater argued, wants what the community wants — to turn the space into a “public amenity” for the Lower East Side.
The resolution passed last night read, in part: “(The project) would provide much needed additional green space… would provide a safe community gathering space for a newly revitalized Delancey Street corridor; would utilize innovative solar technology to create a beautiful park-like experience for visitors; and would be conceived and executed in partnership with a broad and diverse group of community partners and stakeholders, for and by the Lower East Side community.”
The MTA has indicated it will issue a “request for proposals” for the space below Delancey Street sometime this fall, or early next year.