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Design Trust Seeks Ideas for Space Under New York City’s Infrastructure

National Endowment for the Arts announces $50,000 grant to “Under the Elevated.

The Design Trust for Public Space in New York City—the nonprofit that jump-started the High Line and helped bring about New York’s first custom-built taxi—will work with the city’s Department of Transportation to revive and animate public spaces below the city’s elevated transit infrastructure.

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“Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities” will engage community leaders, landscape architects, planners, architects, artists, and cultural organizations to develop strategies to maximize the function, use, and spatial qualities of the millions of square feet of space underneath New York City’s bridges, as well as elevated highways, subways, and rail lines—from dark, litter-strewn expanses of parking under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to arched gateways beneath the number 1 train in Harlem.

“The sheer quantity of spaces that lie right before our eyes, unnoticed, as we New Yorkers go about our business, is staggering. [New York City] has nearly 700 miles of elevated infrastructure, with more than 100 million square feet of underused space beneath,” says Susan Chin, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space. “When you look at the impact the mile-and-a-half-long High Line has created, and then consider the potential of these spaces in neighborhoods across the five boroughs, you understand the magnitude of this undertaking.”

“Under the Elevated” will produce design guidelines as well as programming and policy recommendations that will inform the transformation of spaces citywide and around the world.

“Much of the space below NYC’s elevated transit infrastructure is composed of either parking, storage, or vacant space. We see an opportunity to increase the functionality of these spaces and identify permanent or temporary uses that will enliven the public realm of neighboring communities. For example, we are pleased that the Chinatown Partnership will be a collaborator on this project,” says Wendy Feuer, assistant commissioner for Urban Design & Art at New York City’s Department of Transportation. “By working with the Design Trust to develop guidelines for the design and use of these spaces, we can look forward to well-thought-out recommendations that will be respected by design professionals and community organizations alike.”

“Under the Elevated” will build on the success of the Design Trust’s 2001 project, “Reclaiming the High Line,” in partnership with Friends of the High Line. This planning and feasibility study was credited with rescuing the structure from demolition and advanced strategies for transforming an abandoned elevated railway structure on Manhattan’s West Side into the vibrant public space it is today.

Fellowship Opportunity
Design Trust Fellows must have demonstrated ability to work both independently and collaboratively as well as have direct experience producing deliverables. Once selected, Fellows will play a lead role on projects that will have a real impact on the city. Design Trust projects require significant time commitments from Fellows to work with multiple stakeholders, develop implementable strategies and recommendations, and produce final deliverables. Fellows will be expected to devote approximately 1-2 days per week to the project, from early June to early November. A stipend will be awarded to the Fellow, commensurate with prior experience.

See Call for Fellows online.

Watch ASLA’s animation on reclaiming land compromised by infrastructure.



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