Caroline Bauer, (former) Program Associate, Design Trust for Public Space

Susannah C. Drake, Urban Design Fellow

Rosamond Fletcher, Director of Programs, Design Trust for Public Space

Chat Travieso, Participatory Design Fellow

Douglas Woodward, Policy Fellow


Caroline Bauer, (former) Program Associate, Design Trust for Public Space

Rosamond Fletcher, Director of Programs, Design Trust for Public Space

editorial contributor

Thomas J. Campanella, Associate Professor, Cornell University


Neil Donnelly, Graphic Design Fellow

creative direction

Megan Canning, (former) Deputy Director, Design Trust for Public Space


Design Trust for Public Space

Underneath New York City’s 700 miles of elevated bridges, highways, subway and rail lines lies millions of square feet of public space – nearly four times the size of Central Park – with the potential to radically transform life in the city. Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities presents an in-depth plan for how, and why, this massive inventory of residual space must be reimagined. 

Synthesizing more than two years of research, design, and policy work conducted by our multi-disciplinary team of Fellows in collaboration with our project partner and the Design Trust staff, the Under the Elevated publication envisions how to increase the vibrancy and resiliency of neighborhoods in all five boroughs, and cities everywhere, by addressing and reclaiming the spaces associated with elevated transportation infrastructure. The substantial inventory of space in NYC alone represents an untapped public asset that the has the potential to make a significant impact on our urban fabric. 

Specifically, the publication includes: 

  • An overview of the elevated infrastructure network in NYC with original maps and drawings illustrating typical site conditions;
  • An essay about the evolution of the "El" in NYC by urban historian Thomas J. Campanella;
  • Phased methodology of "Pop-Up > Pilot > Permanent" developed by the project team for transforming sites controlled by many City and State authorities; 
  • Detailed descriptions of the participatory design process and pop-up installations created by Participatory Design Fellow Chat Travieso and Graphic Design Fellow Neil Donnelly;
  • In-depth analysis of seven specific sites representative of the seven main types of "el-space" – cluster, clover, highway, landing, park, span, and trestle;
  • Dramatic black and white photography of life under and along the elevated in NYC by Photo Urbanism Fellow Krisanne Johnson;
  • 24 case studies highlighting national and international precedents for re-imagining these sites;
  • Original drawings developed by Urban Design Fellow Susannah Drake that detail new uses and innovative strategies for "el-spaces" including modular green infrastructure systems and affordable studio space for artists; and
  • A set of policy recommendations developed by Policy Fellow Douglas Woodward aimed at establishing a new program within NYC DOT—the El-Space Program—that would transform sites beneath elevated transportation infrastructure.

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 associated with it. It is the first major urban initiative to propose a comprehensive approach in dealing with these spaces citywide.

NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Preface, "Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities"

Table of Contents

Historical Essay

Section I: Site Strategies
Section II: Opportunities and Alignments with Citywide Plans
Section III: Program to Policy


Publication Information

Date: March 2015

Size: 9 x 12"

Pages: 128

Binding: Swiss

ISBN: 978-0-9777175-2-1

Printed in the USA by: Print Craft, Inc.

Where To Buy

Design Trust Shop

Associated Press

Reviving Dead Spaces Under Elevated Structures
Searching for the Next High Line, City Identifies 700 Miles of Unused Space
What Could We Do with the Space Below New York's 700 Miles of Elevated Roads and Trains?
DOT Aims to Reimagine Elevated Spaces
How New York Plans to Elevate the Spaces Under Freeways, Subway Platforms
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Book design: Neil Donnelly

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In partnership with

New York City Department of Transportation

Associated Fellows