Proposals Reinvent NYC Spaces as Subterranean Parks and Rooftop Farms


The Underground Development Foundation wants to find new uses for the acres of land below New York City's streets. Image: Delancey Underground Project

From the time New York City’s High Line Park opened in June 2009, it’s caused a stir. In a city that can feel packed with people, any new nook with trees and grass is a blessing. This park in particular was a reminder of how an aging urban space—in this case, former freight train tracks—could be reused and recycled into something new. Two new proposals for NYC could provide more inspiration.

Building on the High Line’s success, the Delancey Underground, aka- the Low Line, re-thinks 1.5 acres of subterranean space. The idea would be to turn the vacant Williamsburg Trolley Terminal, unused since the 1940s, into a park—trees and all—using solar technology to channel sunlight underground. It may be a while before the project can be realized, however. While the High Line project started before the recession hit, the Delancey Underground will lean entirely on private support during lean times. Still, the Delancey Underground images (above and below) are a beautiful reminder of how much we can do by re-thinking the space that we have.

Potentially closer on the horizon: rooftop agriculture. Though zoning rules dating back fifty-some years have prohibited many green additions to New York City’s roofs, a proposal put forward in December could change that. The “zone green text amendment,” under review now, could pave the way for rooftop solar panels, skylights, and wind turbines, as well as greenhouses over non-residential buildings. If it passes reviews, the amendment could go into effect as early as this spring. As’s Sarah Laskow reports, this could turn 1,200 acres of rooftop into urban farmland.

For more on the High Line, check out Katherine Bagley’s review of the park, and don’t miss Les Line’s preview of Poughkeepsie's "Walkway Over the Hudson."

While these are just a few urban reinventions, feel free to share your city’s examples in the comments!

Before and after? The Williamsburg Trolley Terminal currently and concept images of the Delancey Underground.

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