Public Activation

New York City's elevated infrastructure pilot returns to beautify Queens

Rendering of the Dutch Kills El-Space 2.0, which will reroute stormwater and create a public plaza for Queens residents. (Courtesy NYCDOT)

The quest to brighten and enliven the numerous disused public spaces underneath New York’s elevated infrastructure continues. Last year, the Design Trust for Public Space and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) presented the first pilot space in their joint Under the Elevated/El-Space program, which activated the space under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Now the Design Trust has released the first look at its second pilot space at Dutch Kills Street in Long Island City, which will turn the space below two elevated roadways into a sustainable community gathering space.

The Dutch Kills Street site, much like the Gowanus Expressway “el-space,” will reroute runoff from the spaces above through stormwater drains. A set of gabion planters (wire mesh frames with a permeable stone filling) with low-light flora and an illuminated art fence will enliven the public plaza.

Rendering of a grass patch under elevated roadways at night

An illuminated “El-Fence” will enliven the underpass at night. (Courtesy NYCDOT)

As the Design Trust notes, New York has millions of square feet of public space that are sitting unused, often creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians. These dark, often-impermeable spaces can cut up neighborhoods and divide communities; the El-Space program is creating a comprehensive framework that can be applied city-wide for reclaiming these areas.

El-Space 2.0 will open to the public on May 16 (interested visitors can RSVP here) as part of NYCxDESIGN. The El-Space Toolkit, a framework for officials, private stakeholders, and community groups that want to realize el-space projects in their own neighborhoods, is also in the works and will launch at a later date. The program isn’t slowing down, and the Design Trust–NYCDOT is working on their third el-space beneath the Rockaway Freeway in Queens.

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