Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities, a project of the Design Trust for Public Space, in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), is the first major research and design initiative to evaluate New York City’s hundreds of miles of elevated transportation infrastructure and its environmental and socio-economic impact.

We saw the crucial need to reimagine these often dark, noisy, and underutilized spaces beneath subway lines, highways, and bridges, especially in underserved communities. We surveyed this vast inventory of land, studied the diverse development potential as public assets, and solicited community input throughout the city.

Under the Elevated puts New York City at the forefront of the growing national and international trend of addressing and reclaiming aging elevated transportation infrastructure and the spaces—or “el-space”—associated with it. Our goal is simple—to make these often forlorn spaces, mostly located in upper Manhattan and other boroughs, more active and attractive assets for residents and neighborhoods, especially in physically disconnected communities, and to create an innovative program to manage and enhance el-space through physical improvements, temporary installations and a variety of programming citywide.

As part of this effort, the Design Trust and NYC DOT have begun experimenting with improvements to el-space, including installing additional lighting, seating, and art, between 2014 and 2015 in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the Morrisania neighborhood in the Bronx. 

The Design Trust and NYC DOT will launch several pilots in other neighborhoods for further testing. Read more.

“After having workshops and talking to people, we decided to create an installation that provided seating, lighting, and had speakers embedded in it playing music that originated in the Bronx.” – Chat Travieso, Under the Elevated Participatory Design Fellow

“I saw Under the Elevated as an opportunity to reenvision spaces under elevated structures and provide the sense of space.” – Kerry McLean, Community Development Vice President, Women Housing and Economic Development Corporation

We saw a necessity to evaluate what these spaces [under the elevated infrastructure] are and manage them better.

Neil Gagliardi, Director of Urban Design, NYC Department of Transportation