MTA Releases Video of Essex St. Trolley Terminal

Unused space eyed for creative makeover that could include a park.

By Edward B. Colby
|  Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011  |  Updated 6:50 AM EDT
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Video of Underground "Park" Space

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An abandoned century-old underground trolley terminal on the Lower East Side is under consideration for a makeover that could include a park, retail space or even a nightclub, and the MTA has released a new video showing off the 60,000-square-foot space.

The old Essex Street Trolley Terminal runs beneath Delancey Street between Essex and Clinton streets. It’s right next to the active tracks of the Delancey St-Essex St subway station, so riders, if they look closely, can see what the MTA’s Peter Hine calls “this remarkable, ghostly space.”

The Essex Street terminal opened in 1903 and served elevated lines from Brooklyn and trolley cars until 1948. It’s been empty since then.

Trolley tracks, cobblestones, wires and other equipment remain in the large space, which right now is dingy and graffiti-strewn, the video shows.

Hine, a senior project manager with the MTA Real Estate Department, says it could be used for dining, recreational or retail spots – “with views of active trains.”


Meanwhile, the Delancey Underground project, which is working closely with the MTA, wants to remake the terminal into New York’s “first underground community green space.” The group's proposed project would use a remote skylight to channel sunlight below ground, nurturing trees and plants.

The group says “the Lowline” could be “a magnet for the Lower East Side” that would provide much-needed green space for the neighborhood, be used for underground retail like Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, and serve as “a showcase for Lower East Side innovation and creativity.”

Delancey Underground is looking next to conduct a feasibility study and hold a launch fundraiser slated for March.

Hines says the MTA wants to make the Essex Street Trolley Terminal and other spaces available for “creative development” soon.

“We’re looking for creative people to take a look at this space and let us know how we can work together to make something that benefits both the transit system and our passengers in the city as a whole,” he says.

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