In September 2012, the fellows of the Forum gathered to debate the viability of the Low Line, a proposed underground park underneath Delancey Street on New York’s Lower East Side. The pair behind the park, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, are exhibiting a prototype of a new technology that filters light from the surface underground, enabling plant life and possibly even an outdoor experience.

The duo was joined by Jamie Springer, Partner of HR&A Advisors, the firm that studied the park’s feasibility. How could the project pay for itself? Public funding and philanthropy alone would not suffice; concessions, partnerships with cultural and community organizations, rentals, and festivals would have to aid in the maintenance of the space. And how would this park, one acre in size, accommodate this mixture of programs?

Fellows agreed that a diverse set of programs would be necessary, but implored the design team to retain their earliest notions of an underground garden as the project moves forward. What would a park, inspired by its underground environs, look like? How would they overcome the challenges of maintaining the subterranean space, like supplying fresh air and enough light for a park to thrive? And how would they confront the challenges of the complex ownership of the site; will city officials push this project forward, or will it remain a grassroots initiative?

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