Hundreds of miles of elevated highways, bridges, subway and rail lines divide and blight many underserved neighborhoods in New York City. The spaces underneath are dark, noisy, and neglected. The Design Trust project Under the Elevated has captured people’s imaginations with its possibilities to transform these underutilized spaces into valuable community assets. There is also strong interest in improving these spaces based on our study, such as Toronto, Chicago.
Our study envisioned how to increase the vibrancy and resiliency of neighborhoods in all five boroughs, and cities everywhere, and recommended the creation of a formal program at NYC Department of Transportation dedicated to these spaces—the El-Space Program. NYCDOT has adopted the El-Space Program to create a citywide model for effective public/private implementation, and inter- and intra-agency cooperation to improve and maintain under-the-elevated spaces. Together we have developed a series of pilot projects to test replicable strategies for lighting, green infrastructure, and urban design to inform NYC DOT capital projects citywide as part of the El-Space Program. The pilots planned for Sunset Park and the Rockaways aim to increase environmental health and recreation, enhance pedestrian safety, and promote economic activity.