Lower East Side

A New Vision for a Storied NYC Location

By Elias Rodriguez

Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge

Real estate is kind of valuable in Manhattan. It is noteworthy that, at long last, New York City has decided on a path forward for an area that is near and dear to my heart. In this week’s New York Times,  it was reported that a hotly contested piece of prime real estate will finally be developed.

The area is on Delancey Street, which was my old stomping ground as a kid.  The Lower East Side neighborhood is a microcosm that magnifies the marvelous mayhem of metropolitan life. The Williamsburg Bridge (WillyB) spills an incessant mass of trucks, cars and bicycles into the area to and from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Delancey St. has a movie named after it, Crossing Delancey, a nice “chick flick,” but not my cup of tea. The bustling thoroughfare is famous or infamous, depending on your desire   to shop, eat, haggle for a bargain or soak up the local ambiance.

Delancey has always been a kind of “Anti-Times Square.” A place where locals go to escape the tourists, immigrant families come to get their kids a new pair of sneakers and where only saps pay retail for purchases.  It is the kind of place where you have a bialy for breakfast, an egg roll for lunch and a bistec en salsa for dinner. A neighborhood alumnus was Jack Kirby, who immortalized the strip as Yancy Street in his beloved comic books. If ever in the ‘hood,” I recommend a visit to the Essex Street Market, which crosses Delancey. If you recall the movie, Marty, he was portrayed as a butcher at the market.

This is a major project within the hottest real estate market on Earth. I am glad that the coveted property, long an eyesore and underutilized parking lot, is now moving toward becoming a community asset; but I hope it is developed in a sustainable way. What considerations will be given to air quality? The constant traffic on Delancey from the WillyB generates tons of diesel emissions. Emissions from diesel engines are a primary source of air pollution in the northeastern United States. The planned on-site Andy Warhol Museum sounds novel, but will the children within the planned 1,000 apartments be provided with green spaces to play and recreate? What are your thoughts about urban planning and the balance between competing interests?

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Everybody is Talking About: the LowLine | NYC’s Newest Green Space

A digital mockup of the proposed LowLine park, complete with natural sunlight

By Elizabeth Myer

One of the best perks of blogging for Greening the Apple is being among the first to uncover urban escapes via our readers or through other EPA contributors. In the past, we’ve blogged about the High Line, one of my all time favorite green spaces in NYC, but it recently occurred to me that we have yet to mention the LowLine. While the High Line resides on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, the proposed Low Line aims to “greenify” underground space on the Lower East Side (LES). The masterminds behind the project are Dan Barasch and James Ramsey, an executive at the social innovation network PopTech and an architect, respectively.

The space for the project is comparable in size to Gramercy Park and sits directly underneath the LES foot entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. Like the High Line it was initially built to serve as a train station, though it has been abandoned for over six decades. You might wonder, “How on earth does this duo plan to lure New Yorkers underground during the warm and sunny months?” James Ramsey, a former NASA satellite engineer, answered this concern with a technology that he developed specifically for this project which will use fiber optic cables to fill the subterranean space with natural light that will also be filtered of harmful ultraviolet and infrared light.

Just last week, fundraising opened through Kickstarter in an effort by James Ramsey and Dan Barasch to raise a whopping $100,000 in order to create mock-ups of their technology that will bring natural light into the space. The coolest part? The creators want to actively engage the local community in the decision-making from the start. To open up the dialogue, they will be presenting their plans for the project at high schools and community meetings on the LES over the next year.

Renovated green space with community input? Count me in!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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