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Transportation Nation

Proposed Lowline Underground Park Debuts "Solar Harvesters" for Subterranean Photosynthesis (PICS)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A sample "canopy distributor" channeling sunlight into a darkened warehouse demonstrates how the proposed Lowline underground park in Manhattan could have enough light to grow plants. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Yorkers can get their first peek at the technology required to construct a proposed park in an underground abandoned trolley station. A year ago (almost to the day). the Lowline project teased the imaginations of New Yorkers and dazzled park lovers everywhere by releasing dreamy renderings of a lush park paradise-to-be in a most unlikely place: below ground. And not just below ground, but below Delancey Street, one of the most disparaged and dangerous stretches of asphalt in the whole city for a pleasant pedestrian stroll.

In dense Manhattan, though, clusters of unused cubic feet are precious, be they in a penthouse or buried in infrastructure purgatory. So an abandoned trolley terminal dating back to the early 1900s is a contender to become New York park space. The plan depends on subterranean sunlight shining through the sidewalk in beams powerful enough to grow greenery.

"What I envision is that we will have this kind of undulating, reflective ceiling actually functioning as an optical device to draw sunlight into the space to make it somewhere that you would actually like to spend some time," says James Ramsey, co-founder of the Lowline and designer of the "Imagining the Lowline" installation that opens Saturday to showcase sample "solar harvesting" technology.

A 35-foot wide aluminum canopy showers light upon a mock indoor park to demonstration the "remote skylight" concept. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The Lowline name is a play on the wildly successful High Line, which turned an abandoned freight rail line on Manhattan's far west side into elevated park space. To showcase how that might be replicated in cavernous conditions, the Lowline team has set up an exhibit in a warehouse at ground level, right above the proposed site on Essex Street between and Broome and Delancey Streets. The rugged, blackened warehouse aims to recreate what it might be like to amble through the 100-year old trolley terminal below.

"On top of this roof we created  a massive superstructure, that's way in the air, that's actually harvesting the sunlight, redirecting it through light pipes," Ramsey says. A computer guides the rooftop solar collectors to track the sun all day long for maximal reflected light through a system created by a Canadian company, Sun Central.

The solar technology was designed by Raad Studio, engineering firm Arup, and physics professor Lorne Whitehead of the Univ. of British Columbia. Landscape by Hortus Environmental Design. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

To fund the exhibit, the Lowline raised $155,000 on Kickstarter. But it has to cross a number of hurdles before -- not to mention if -- it becomes reality.

Ramsey cautioned that the final design will depend on "many, many different conditions." Including negotiations with several city agencies. Delancey Street -- presently under a years' long redesign to become more bike and pedestrian friendly -- would need another overhaul to install "remote skylights." The preliminary engineering study for the Lowline is still weeks away from being finalized. That will bring with it cost estimates for tasks like lead paint abatement and adding drainage. After the price tag is tabulated, a design will be hatched, and the dreamers crazy enough to build a park below a busy city will have to commence some serious fundraising.

Also sharing space with the "Imagining the Lowline" exhibit is "Experiments in Motion," an installation sponsored by Audi and executed by Columbia architecture students to explore multi-modal transportation possibilities. The centerpiece of the projects on display is a 50-foot 3D model of New York's underground public spaces, mainly subway stations, meant to place the Lowline in spacial context.

Close up of the midtown Manhattan portion of a 3D model of the NY subway system. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The exhibit is open to the public Saturday, September 15th - 27th. More details are at the Lowline website.

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Transportation Nation

Crossing Delancey To Get Safer

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Delancey Street (photo by Joseph A. via flickr)

Delancey Street -- a busy multi-lane street on Manhattan's Lower East Side -- will be getting a major safety overhaul.

"We've got a plan to make it even easier to cross Delancey and really make it more of a street again," said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The city will widen sidewalks and change the timing of lights to give pedestrians more time to cross. All told, 14 of the street's 19 crosswalks will be shortened.   Some left turns will now be restricted, and a service lane will be eliminated. "We're going to make it much clearer for pedestrians and drivers to understand how to cross and use the street," said Sadik-Khan, who called it "the most concerted effort that's ever been brought to bear on Delancey Street."

She said the redesign will add 14,000 square feet of additional pedestrian space to Delancey between Norfolk and Clinton Street. Large planters, maintained by the local business improvement district, will help delineate the space.

The street leads to the Williamsburg Bridge and is considered among the city's most dangerous; in a statement today, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called it "a nightmare for pedestrians." The city has made safety improvements over the years, but the issue vaulted to the forefront last month when a 12-year old girl was killed while crossing the intersection of Delancey and Clinton Streets.

“The problems along Delancey have been hidden in plain sight for decades,” said Sadik-Khan.  On Wednesday night, the proposed changes will be presented at a special meeting of Community Board 3.

New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, who said he created the Delancey Street Working Group last year in order to make the street safer, was pleased with the DOT's response. "These changes on their own don't solve every problem, and we're going to need to monitor them," he said. "What they are is they are a dramatic change in a short time frame, and it's going to make a real improvement."

The city said it wants to implement the changes this June. To see the plan, go here (pdf).

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Florida Bullet Train Would Have Been Profitable, Cheap Natural Gas Boosts US Energy Independence, Historic Wright Bros. Shop May Be Demolishe

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Top stories on TN: the Senate will move its highway bill Thursday. An audit of the Port Authority called it a "challenged and dysfunctional organization" and found cost overruns at the World Trade Center. Houston is a leading purchaser of green energy. Gas prices are creeping higher -- especially in D.C. And: listen to what happens when a subway platform becomes a musical instrument.

 

(courtesy of NASA)

The high-speed rail project that Florida's governor killed last February would have made an annual surplus of $31 million to $45 million within a decade of operation, according to a state report. (TBO)

The boom in shale oil and natural gas is moving the U.S. closer to energy independence -- but cheap natural gas means less incentive to invest in cleaner energy. (Marketplace)

New York City will unveil a pedestrian safety plan for Delancey Street, nearly a month after a 12-year-old was killed while crossing the busy intersection at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. (DNA Info)

Toronto's city council is preparing to kill the mayor's transit plan. (Toronto Sun)

Four consortiums of engineering and construction companies have been found qualified to bid on the $5 billion project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Times Herald-Record)

An Ohio building constructed around the first Wright brothers' bicycle shop has been declared a public nuisance and may eventually be demolished. (AP via ABC)

Meanwhile: Newt Gingrich, campaigning in Ohio, says the Wright brothers rose from bicycle mechanics to world renowned inventors – without the assistance of government funding. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood is blogging enthusiastically about Denver's light rail expansion. (FastLane)

Some DC Metro bus signs are telling passengers to "alight" instead of "exit." (Washington Post)

Just what is Detroit? A city, an industry, or an idea? (Forbes)

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