Metric tons of bureaucratic red tape surround the process of transferring the space from the MTA to the city, but Dan Barasch, one of the project's masterminds, said he's slowly bushwhacking his way through it.
"Right now we're fighting for legal access to the site, and building a larger base of supporters," he told us. "Every day we get another big endorsement or level of support or good news."
The latest endorsement was a big one—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently became the highest-ranking politician to sign off on the park, meaning it's won support at several levels of government, from the community board on up. The mayoral race is on the horizon, but Barasch said he's not interested in over-politicizing the project just yet.
"We don’t think the Lowline needs to be an election issue right now," he said. "We're not looking to put anybody on the spot."
For now, Barasch said his focus is on two things: Working with the MTA to transfer the land out of its lease—a process that, while cumbersome, should be relatively uncontroversial—and garnering community support. While much of the heavy-lifting has taken place behind the scenes, the Lowline project is preparing to debut a series of LES-based fundraisers, starting this very night with a benefit at the Box.
The evening will feature the "Lowline Super Group," comprised of Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt and touring members of MGMT and Kuroma, performing covers "dedicated to the spirit of downtown New York City," as well as a set from Williamsburg's Au Revoir Simone. General admission tickets are $200 (it is, after all, a benefit) and include an "Absolut Lowline cocktail." For a cool $1,200, generous patrons get a table, five tickets and Absolut bottle service. Click here for tickets.
Last year, the Lowline scored more than $150,000 through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, meaning that at least financially, the project is on the right track. Barasch said he's optimistic that the lease will be transferred to the city by the end of the year, and hopes construction can begin on the innovative site, which will use fiber optic cables to project solar energy below ground, within five years.
"We don’t have multimillion dollar endowment, but we do have a very strong base of donors who are supporting us," he said. "We really have a fantastic shot of making it happen."