Growing Trees Out of Concrete In NYC

Written By Stephanie Fujihashi | March 04, 2014
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The proposed Lowline Project, a Lower East Side underground park

The Bronx remains to be the least gentrified borough in New York City. It is rare for readers of our blog to come across articles that touch on the city’s northernmost borough. This, however, may be changing sooner rather than later, and a decade from now, you may be finding articles tagged with “South Bronx” (or “SoBRO,” if you prefer to give the area a hipster flare) at the same rate that you are now finding articles that discuss the evolution which has been continuously taking place over in Brooklyn.

During his annual State of the Borough Address on February 20th,  Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced a proposition to convert a largely desolate industrial stretch along the Harlem River to be transformed into a mixed-use waterfront district. According to a preliminary analysis, the proposed waterfront development could be used for more than 2,000 units of housing, over a million square feet of commercial space, public parks, and other recreational facilities, reminiscent of Brooklyn Bridge Park, along the East River. A new waterfront would most definitely contribute to a revitalization of a borough that has suffered greatly from high crime, poverty, and high unemployment for decades.

Bronx Ariel View

An aeriel view of the Bronx waterfront

Aside from the proposed South Bronx waterfront development, New York City is currently undertaking many other propositions for converting desolate and abandoned urban areas into recreational facilities and green spaces.

The Lowline Project is pondering creative solutions to illuminating and bringing back to life an abandoned historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side (south of Delancey Street) through solar technology. The proposed location for the project is the former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, which was opened over a century ago in 1908. The terminal shut down in 1948 when trolley service was discontinued, and has been neglected for the past six decades. This innovative park would use solar energy to allow for the growth of plants and trees underground, adding much needed greenery to our Concrete Jungle.

Further downtown by the September 11th Memorial, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is proposing ideas for an acre-long elevated park. Designed by landscape architect Joseph E. Brown, Liberty Park will offer panoramic views of the memorial, as well as views of the soaring Freedom Tower. Though still far from fruition, the proposed park will be constructed on the roof of the World Trade Center’s Vehicle Security Center, 20 feet above ground level. The project has an estimated budget of $50 million, and construction is projected to begin within the year.

Liberty Park Rendering

Rendering of Liberty Park at World Trade Center, courtesy of the Port Authority of NY/NJ

New York being refered to as the Concrete Jungle may be cliche, but it does indeed have a good amount of truth to it. Though the simple geography of where we live is not something that is consciously thought of, the island of Manhattan is a mere 33.77 square miles, serving as the world’s capitol of commerce, finance, fashion, tourism, and much more. Greenery is scarce, and no matter how accustomed we may become to seeing 50+ floor buildings stacked upon each other, we all have those days where we long to see a branch or two swaying along with the breeze. Though all three of the above plans are still not quite set in concrete, converting abandoned and unused space into parks, waterfronts, and recreational areas will surely have a healing effect on overworked and tired New Yorkers.

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