Time lapse video of people interacting with the Under the Elevated installation on Division Street underneath the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown over the course of a week.

NYC Department of Transportation

Each installation functions as a prototype that will test replicable design strategies to maximize the function, use, and spatial qualities of the millions of square feet of space underneath NYC's bridges, and elevated highways, subways, and rail lines. The installations will inform the project's recommendations for how the City can work with local partners to transform these areas into new, high-performance public spaces in the long term.

We're working in partnership with the Department of Transportation to build temporary installations at three of our Under the Elevated project sites: Division Street and Forsyth Street under the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown, Manhattan; Southern Boulevard and Freeman Street under the 2/5 train in Claremont Village, the Bronx; and Highbridge Park at 181st Street under the Washington Bridge in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

Our first prototypical installation, organized in collaboration with the Chinatown Partnership, reimagined the Manhattan Bridge underpass on Division Street as a new gateway to Chinatown. The design transforms the heavily trafficked north side of the bridge landing to test strategies for making underpasses more inviting public spaces, and utilizing a neighborhood landmark as a community resource. 

First, dramatic red lights were installed to invite pedestrians to pause and notice the architecture of the Manhattan Bridge. While the red lights provide a sense of warmth to the space, the iconic color also signifies that one is entering Chinatown. Secondly, a graphic installation over the three bays of the bridge landing orient visitors and residents alike to the culture, community and activities Chinatown has to offer. 

The installation includes six maps of Chinatown for residents to post opportunities to Learn, Play, Eat, See, Make, or Connect within a ten minute walk from the bridge on each day of the week. In addition to this community-generated events calendar, the installation also invites users to share their thoughts on how the underpass can be improved in both the short and long-term. As such, the installation explores how citizens can inform how their community is designed, and how information is shared in an era when our public realm is becoming increasingly regulated.  

DOT's collaboration with the Design Trust is addressing the 700 miles of space beneath and adjacent to elevated infrastructure citywide is on the leading edge of a trend that we are seeing in cities around the world.

Polly Trottenberg, DOT Commissioner