Rooftop gardens have brought a little peace and greenery to many city-dwellers. But besides roofs, there's another source of space in land-scarce cities such as New York or Tokyo—abandoned subway and trolley stations underground. One group of entrepreneurs want to build a fiber-optic system that would gather sunlight from aboveground and channel it down into an abandoned trolley station, lighting a 1.5-acre park underneath the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They've named their idea the LowLine, a play on the name of the High Line, another park in Manhattan that's built on unused elevated subway track. They presented the idea at a community meeting in September 2011. They're now gathering donations on Kickstarter.
Their first stop is to raise $100,000 to demonstrate a mockup of the park, including the fiber optic cable system that would pipe in sunlight. The system would bring in the wavelengths of light needed to support photosynthesis—trees and grass and other plants—but filter out ultraviolet rays that harm the skin, according to the LowLine's Kickstarter page. Companies such as Parans and Sunlight Direct already make similar products.
The park will use some additional electricity for ventilation and for lighting during nights and cloudy days, CNN reported.
The LowLine founders have talked to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which owns the old trolley station, which was used from 1903 to 1948. The MTA is waiting for the group to demo their idea, the Kickstarter page said. Local businesses are supportive, the Wall Street Journal reported, as they hope the park will draw new customers to the area.
What about what the space looks like now? The MTA made a "real estate video" of the abandoned station November 2011 (There are no rats, according to the New York Times, because there's nothing for them to eat there):
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