Under the Elevated 2013–2020

The first phase developed design and policy recommendations, in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation, to transform the neglected public space under the city's elevated bridges, highways, subway and rail lines, into valuable community assets. The partnership continues in a second phase to launch several pilots. The first pilot in Sunset Park will be a collaboration with Industry City.

  1. Phase I
  2. Phase II
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In partnership with

New York City Department of Transportation

Community Collaborator

Industry City

Project Area: Five Boroughs

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Reclaim spaces beneath elevated infrastructure with the El-Space Toolkit

February 27, 2020

Exhibits, Tours & Conversations

El-Space: Innovation in City Design & Urban Regeneration

Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 7:30 AM

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"New York City has run out of space." How many times have you heard this? But is that really the case? The city has over 70 millions of square feet of underutilized space along its nearly 300 linear miles of elevated infrastructure weaving through its five boroughs. Seizing this opportunity, the Design Trust is partnering with the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) to reclaim and transform the public space under New York City's elevated highways, subway and rail lines, and bridges.


Under the Elevated: Phase I spelled out sustainable and versatile ways to redesign and maintain the multi-jurisdictional public spaces beneath and adjacent to the ‘elevateds’ in a comprehensive study, entitled Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities. The project team's research encompasses seven case studies and two pop-up experiments (Chinatown installation and Boogie Down Booth) undertaken with the input of a diverse group of New Yorkers, including Chinatown Partnership and the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation.

The study also proposes the creation of an El-Space Program at NYC DOT dedicated to under the elevated spaces. The program would develop strategies that capitalize on the special character of these sites as gateways, corridors and connectors in underserved neighborhoods.

For the project’s second phase, El-Space: Creating Dynamic Places Under the Elevated, we will launch several pilots building on our findings. The first pilot in Sunset Park is a collaboration with Industry City.


The first pilot in Sunset Park, located beneath the Gowanus Expressway at 36th Street and 3rd Avenue, launched in June 2018 and connects residents to the waterfront, increase environmental health, and enhance pedestrian safety for residents of Sunset Park and workers at Industry City and adjacent sites. It will test urban design strategies, replicable lighting and green infrastructure, and inform a future NYC DOT capital project at the site, and other under the elevated locations citywide.

Additional pilots are being planned for two sites in Queens. The ‘el-space’ designs will offer creative solutions for three of the seven typologies—Highway, Trestle, and Bridge—identified in our Under the Elevated study.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s focus on underserved neighborhoods makes it an especially opportune moment to look intently at New York City’s 'el-space'. Our 700 miles of remarkable elevated infrastructure have clearly contributed to the expansion and economic growth of New York City, but that infrastructure has also negatively impacted many communities, especially low-income and minority neighborhoods physically separated and isolated by elevated highways and rail lines. 'Under the Elevated' calls upon us to try to tackle those impacts and reconnect those neighborhoods.

NYC DOT COMMISSIONER POLLY TROTTENBERG, Preface, "Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities"


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Project Support

  • New York Building Foundation