For the past 65 years, the former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal has occupied an unused acre below Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a vast space in an ever-increasingly space-strapped city collecting dust and rubbish. Then one night in 2009, architect and former NASA satellite engineer Jamie Ramsey, then 31, met up with his friend and former Google strategist Dan Barasch, then 32, for some wine. Ramsey, whose design firm is based on the Lower East Side, had just been introduced to the forgotten trolley terminal and tells Barasch of his plan to install solar technology in the site, enabling plants and trees to grow. Barasch in turn shares his idea of installing art in the New York City subway system.
Two years later, Ramsey and Barasch went public with their plans to create an underground park in the disused trolley terminal. By 2012, the project’s Kickstarter campaign raised over $155,000 from 3,300 supporters worldwide.
Presumably in his free time, Ramsey invented a solar technology wherein “sunlight passes through a glass shield above the parabolic collector, and is reflected and gathered at one focal point, and directed underground, transmit[ing] the necessary wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow. During periods of sunlight, electricity would not be necessary to light the space.”
This past summer, nine elected officials publicly backed the project and Ramsey and Barasch hope to complete negotiations with the MTA and the City begin work on the space by next year.
Named after the West Side’s 1.6 kilometre elevated train rail-cum-public park the High Line, the Lowline is similarly set to revolutionise public spaces. Like the High Line, the Lowline makes creative use of existing infrastructure to reintroduce nature into urban environments. In light of the World Health Organisation’s recent findings that air pollution is a leading cause of cancer, access to green space is essential. If successful, Ramsey’s technology could change the world. His idea already has.