The team behind the Lowline, the underground park envisioned in an abandoned trolley station below Delancey Street, always knew that persistence would be key to making their vision reality. It’s now been almost three years since co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch went public with the plan to transform the subterranean station, using sunlight channeling technology. Since that time, they have demonstrated pretty remarkable staying power and determination while orchestrating a multifaceted campaign for the MTA-controlled space. This week, we caught up with Barasch for an update.
The organization is busy making preparations for its annual “anti-gala,” which will be co-hosted October 8 by Lena Dunham and Spike Jonze. Earlier this month, another benefit at the Bowery Hotel raised $30,000. At the same time, Barasch explained, they’re continuing to make inroads with the local political establishment and deepening already well established relationships with Lower East Side community organizations.
In the recently approved New York City budget, Council members Margaret Chin and Dan Garodnick allocated $5,000 for the Lowline Lab, a technology, design and research exhibition that will be established in the coming months. While the grant is a small one, Barasch said, it represents a significant step, since all of the Lowline’s fundraising has previously come from private sources. This initial award could help set the stage for larger capital grants in the future. Here’s how the team described the lab in its Council application:
The Lowline requests funding for the Lowline Lab: a long-term art and technology exhibit that will serve as a community hub, placemaking tool and transition tent for the neighborhood. In partnership with the LES BID, the exhibit will be held in a new structure built from repurposed shipping containers. It will house the Lowline’s custom solar technology along with a rotating set of plants and trees, creating a magical garden unlike any other space in the city. Council funding will support the lab’s community programming, which will be run with Educational Alliance, Henry Street Settlement, University Settlement and Grand Street Settlement. As an interactive science experiment and community backyard, the lab will host a variety of public programs, welcoming school groups and after-school programs and hosting public street fairs, art exhibits, free lectures, and open science education programs about the botanical research being conducted at the lab by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
Speaking of educational programs, the Lowline is running two programs during the summer to engage school-aged children. Next Friday, students at the Center for Architecture will be presenting their ideas for the park, using models and other visual aides. On the same day, kids at the Abrons Arts Center will be displaying their own design concepts. A similar program took place this past winter at the Mark Miller Gallery on Orchard Street.
Barasch said a main focus of the organization this coming fall and into 2015 will be demonstrating specifically how the sunlight technology will work. New research will be unveiled at the anti-gala and he also hopes there will be substantial progress on the political front. Last summer, local elected officials voiced strong support for the Lowline and urged the MTA to begin transferring the former trolly site to the city, a necessary step in redeveloping the space. There’s a push underway to engage the de Blasio administration and to win support within the mayor’s office for the proposal. “It’s important that we continue to demonstrate progress, ” said Barasch.