New York City is constantly evolving. At Budget Dumpster, we realize that’s not breaking news. In this post, we highlight some of the projects, both in planning and being constructed, that could dramatically change the way we all see NYC. Below are the five we handpicked.

Waterfront Parks

One the biggest individual undertakings of any of these projects is a plan to build two waterfront parks in the South Bronx. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It gets better. A nonprofit founded by Hollywood icon, Bette Midler, is behind it.

south bronx beach

132nd and 134th Streets will be completely transformed through the renovations.

The New York Restoration Project, founded in 1995 by the “Beaches” star, strives to provide high-quality open space throughout all the boroughs of New York City. The organization has made a major impact over the last 20 years on public parks and housing projects, among other areas, and now will work to build up the beach front on 132nd and 134th Street, near Randall’s Island Connector. The pedestrian bridge will soon be completed, hopefully building up the community atmosphere in the southeast corner of Port Morris. The parks will only build up the area even further.

The project, first unveiled in the beginning of July, would be the first public waterfront access point in the surrounding neighborhoods. A series of pathways will help tie the neighborhoods together and attract employees on their lunch break, joggers looking for a scenic route and families enjoying a day at the beach. While there’s no set timeline or cost yet, officials are hoping to break ground in 2017 at an estimated cost of $5 to $10 million.

Transforming Underpasses

In NYC, it’s easy to overlook open areas. After all, it’s pretty dense. Yet, some 700 miles of space lying underneath the city’s highways and rails remain underdeveloped. In a study that took over two years (Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities), the Design Trust for Public Space and the NYC Department of Transportation found there’s plenty of room to grow in New York. Both literally and figuratively.

new york city underpasses green space

Millions of square feet of public space , nearly four times that of Central Park, lie below the City’s bridges, subways and highways.

Many see these underutilized areas as opportunities to grow green space and to develop a sense of community. The possibilities range far and wide, and pseudo experiments have taken place in the past. It’s all part of an international trend focused on capitalizing on spaces associated with elevated transportation, mainly the spaces below. Transforming these often dark and noisy sections of neighborhoods into livable, operational spaces could be key to NYC’s progression towards a more unified city. A projected population increase of 1 million people in the next 25 years will only increase the demand of reinventing what lies underneath highways and rails.

Rebuilding Community Gardens

Community gardens are particularly important to New York. The city was a concrete jungle long before Bob Marley or Jay Z ever claim it to be, and thus massive housing units and privately owned plots of land tend to supplant the importance. That’s exactly the case in the South Bronx, where residents are petitioning to flip a vacant lot into a community garden.

“The South Bronx is experiencing a surge in new developments, however, NYC planners and policy makers have failed to include green spaces and schools in the new building development plans exploding in this area,” claims Victor Maldonado in the petition on Change.org. “I am seeking a petition to address this issue with our local politicians. We seek the opportunity to make a sustainable green space on the NYC DOT demapped street of East 159th Street between Eagle and Saint Ann’s Avenue.”

nyc community gardens

East 159th Street would become one of the only green spaces in the area.

Residents near the East 159th Street area simply want a plot of land to grow fresh produce, teach children about sustainable and healthy living and bring community members together. The problem is the Department of Transportation has yet to allocate the space, as it has laid abandoned and overgrown nearly 30 years removed from functioning as a street. Homeowners, business owners and teachers at The New Life School are now taking action, seemingly fighting for something that seems like a no-brainier. Their words haven’t gone unnoticed, recently appearing on News 12 and securing a visit from a DOT commissioner.

The situation in the South Bronx represents a larger issue in New York, one that has been increasingly problematic in recent years. City dwellers seek many of the amenities of their suburbanite counterparts, realizing its very possible to have green space without the square footage. What’s currently taking place on East 159th could be a microcosm of how similar situations are managed in the future, possibly reshaping the landscape of the city.

Underground Parks

Speaking of green space, New Yorkers are now looking beyond what’s on the surface. The much-publicized Lowline intends to combine solar technology with an unused space below the city’s streets to create a year-round underground park. Just typing that sentence felt cool. Imagine being able to go to a park in the middle of winter and seeing leaves, grass and so on.

underground park new york update

A year-round park may possible underground.

Of course this project hasn’t fully come to fruition yet, as the site below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side still looks very much like an abandoned terminal (untouched since 1948), but that’s not to say the work isn’t progressing. Earlier in July, the campaign on Kickstarter surpassed its $200,000 goal by over $20,000. The campaign has come a long way since its 2012 debut on the crowdfunding site, boosted by founder Dan Barasch’s TED Talk last September. Now it’s about testing and building. Solar technology and fiber optic cables creating natural light below ground isn’t exactly a simple operation.

While a big undertaking, the underground park could revolutionize city landscapes around the world. We’ll have to wait and see on that, as it’s expected date of completion is between 2018 and 2020.

Landmark Restoration

While much of this post has focused on creating new community spaces by replacing old and abandoned parts of New York, this is more of a restoration story. An historic cast iron watchtower sat at the top of Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem for close to 158 years. It was a sight to see, but it began to deteriorate over the years as weather and general wear set in. The New York City Parks Department decided to do something about it.

harlem fire watchtower

A restored watchtower will once again provide a landmark for the area.

Working on the project for over 10 years, the Parks Department dismantled the watchtower in the spring after it was considered structurally unsound. They have now presented plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to restore the tower and rebuild it as a viewing platform for the public. It’s been out of commission since the 1870s, just 13 years after it was built, but it has been renovated several times over its lengthy life. The plan is to restore as much of the cast iron as possible and reinforce it with stainless steel for support. A 10,000-pound bell, originally used to alert fire stations, will also be part of the restoration.

Restoring landmarks isn’t an easy or cheap process but a necessary one to preserve New York’s history. With so much “new” coming into the City, recognizing the past is imperative. The Parks Department’s efforts are a great example of that.