Inside the Lowline: the World’s First Underground Park

It’s not science-fiction. Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Lowline, Dan Barasch, plans to open the world’s first underground park in a historic, subterranean New York City trolley terminal, using advanced solar technology to transmit sunlight directly beneath the street.

Barasch believes NYC is 30-50% of where it should be as far as providing free and public space to its residents. The Lower East Side, the Lowline’s would-be neighborhood, has one-fifth the green space available to residents as the rest of NYC. To solve this, Barasch looked beyond the traditional constraints of urban design. The answer, it turned out, was right below him.

For his work and vision, Dan Barasch was selected as a 2015 GLG Social Impact Fellow. Over the course of the fellowship, Barasch connected with experts in underground farming technology as well as those familiar with public space management. These consultations directly informed the proposal he submitted for the Lowline.

GLG visited Barasch at the Lowline Lab—an expansive underground exhibit located two blocks from the proposed site of the Lowline—to discuss solar technology, the future of public spaces, and why the next revolution in farming might be underground.

Since 2012, Barasch has built a grassroots nonprofit organization to bring the Lowline to life and has raised several million dollars in the process, including two record-setting crowdfunding campaigns. Before focusing on the Lowline full-time, Barasch led strategic partnerships at PopTech, a social innovation accelerator that promotes the use of science and technology for social good. He also held several strategy, operations, and marketing roles at Google and worked in workforce development in NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. Barasch has also consulted for UNICEF in Nairobi and the 9/11 Survivors’ Fund in Washington, D.C. He began his career producing international affairs programming at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, including the weekly National Public Radio show It’s Your World.

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