Fiber Optic Technology Could Bring Sunlight to NYC's Underground Park

© Alex Davies

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Delancey Underground, the proposed park beneath New York's Lower East Side, is the way James Ramsey and Dan Barasch plan to light it. A system of fiber optic cables would collect sunlight above ground and funnel it down into the abandoned trolley station, providing real sunlight that would allow plants to grow.

How It Works

I got to meet James and Dan this week, and learned a bit more about how the technology. What impressed me most, as someone without a science or tech background, is that I understand (mostly, and maybe) how it works. It's a pretty straightforward system. Unlike most solar technology, no energy is produced, the sunlight is merely transported to where its needed.

A dish that looks like a flatter mixing bowl sits above ground. All of the sunlight that hits it is funneled toward its center and into fiber optic cables. The cables run through the ground and end at a similar looking dish with a bulb, which distributes the light.

James notes that this system would not be the only one lighting the Lowline. First of all, it provides light only when it's sunny- not on cloudy days, not at night. But having real sunlight enabling photosynthesis, and real plants, is pretty cool.

© Alex Davies

Despite what most people probably assume when they see the renderings we featured of the Delancey Underground, the idea is not a total pipe dream. The Kickstarter campaign James and Dan launched on March 1 reached its $100,000 goal in a matter of days and has raised more than $143,000 to date.

Renderings and a 3D model of the Lowline can be seen at the Mark Miller Gallery, near the site of the proposed park, through the end of April. With the Kickstarter money, James and Dan are working on a full-scale mockup of the park in an empty warehouse, to give people an idea of what the space would really look like.

It's still a long shot, but the pair is dead serious about making it happen. So far, they haven't been stopped.

Tags: Lighting | New York City | Solar Technology