The recently opened Lowline Lab on the Lower East Side is stunning, child-friendly, FREE, hosts workshops for kids—and unlike any park you've ever seen in NYC.
The indoor park was built to test and showcase technology for growing and sustaining plants underground. It'll be open weekend afternoons for six months, making it a great, leafy (and warm) destination this holiday season for locals and NYC visitors. But it's more than just another great place to get in out of the cold this winter. The Lowline Lab feels like a peek into some futuristic world. Read on for the inside scoop on New York City’s weirdest new park, what it’s like to visit with kids and how to register for its free Young Designers Program.
The Lowline began as a plan to turn the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal into an underground park using solar technology to bring enough light underground to support photosynthesis, enabling plants to grow. The "Lab," which opened to the public October 17, is just a sample of what the full park could be, but demonstrates the technology that would be used and gives a good sense of the possibilities.
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Admission to The Lowline Lab is free, although there is a donation box. Children are welcome. Visitors are greeted with an exhibit of multiple display boards explaining the mission and technology behind The Lowline. The information is a bit dense, so parents will have to synthesize it for children, but, if you take the time to read the boards, it’s quite interesting and will help kids understand the uniqueness of the park. Alternatively, you could read a little bit about the technology online at home.
But then you walk into the drama. Illuminated by a single column of light coming from the ceiling, the man-made park looks like a fantastic island jungle. Really, it’s hard not to compare it to futuristic video game scenery or a real-life Avatar. The plantings are lush and varied. Labels tell visitors what each plant is, and close observers will find pineapples and other surprises amongst the vegetation.
Children are welcome to touch the plants, exploring various textures, and there’s even a little cave they can climb into. How much your kid enjoys this quirky, underground experiment depends on them, of course. The exhibition is small, the information is not very child-friendly or interactive, and the main draw is simply admiring how cool (and weird) this new park is. Some kids may be over it before they even walk into the room, others will be more engaged with the concept. Either way, it’s worth a visit, even if a quick one. And, hey, Economy Candy is just across the street.
The Lowline Young Designers Program also turns The Lowline Lab into an interactive learning space for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The three-hour workshops teach kids about solar technology, plant and soil science, engineering and design with interactive activities. The FREE workshops are held Monday through Friday, 9am-6pm. Registration is first-come, first-served. Sign up on the Lowline website.
Maybe those little scholars can come up with a way to turn our cramped NYC apartments into such fantastical green pods? It's hard not to dream big at the Lowline and wonder if this cave-like dwelling with small rays of technologically-enhanced sunlight beamed into them is the future.
The Lowline Lab, 140 Essex Street (Between Rivington and Stanton Streets). Hours: 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday, October 2015-March 2017. FREE to visit. More information at TheLowline.org.