A few months ago, as Jay Walder’s tenure at the MTA came to an end, word leaked out of an ambitious plan to turn some idle underground infrastructure owned by the MTA into a park. Called “Delancey Underground,” the plan involved bringing sunlight from above through fiber optic cables to create a park in the abandoned Essex St. Trolley Terminal. As New York City has seen the High Line take off on the West Side, the park proponents envision something similar for the Lower East Side.
As I understand it, the men behind this plan had a sympathetic ear in Jay Walder, and although press coverage of the Delancey Underground hasn’t died down, I’m not sure what their future holds. Even if the space isn’t turned into a park, the MTA, though, wants to see it redeveloped. Enter today’s video. In it, Peter Hine of the MTA takes us on a visual tour of the Essex St. Trolley Terminal, a mysterious space across from the J/M/Z platform that has been shuttered for decades. Sneak a peek:
I’m trying to arrange a tour of the space myself, but for now, Hine’s walk-through will have to do. While South 4th St., for example, remains sealed off seemingly forever, the Essex St. Trolley Terminal is firmly on the authority’s radar. As Hine says in the video, the MTA is looking for something to fill the space that “benefits both our transit system and its passengers.”
For Transit, converting these idle spaces into something useful is part of a new focus on “creative redevelopment and reuse.” If the authority can make money while turning parts of the system into spaces for urban creativity and exploration, even better. Still, the trolley terminal hasn’t been in use for sixty years. It could be a few more before anything lands there. For now, it’s still just a glimpse into the city’s transit past.