What is El-Space?

Space beneath and adjacent to elevated transportation infrastructure, including above-ground subways, bridges, and highways, is called “El-Space.” DOT is studying, evaluating and testing new treatments as well as identifying methods to manage these spaces to improve access, mobility, safety and connectivity.

There are approximately 300 linear miles of El-Space citywide. Some El-Space is characterized by active pedestrian and vehicular corridors. Other areas, however, are dark and underutilized and marked by conditions where pedestrians need to sidestep stormwater runoff and experience intensified train and vehicular noises. As land uses change and the population of New York City increases, demand for these locations also increases. DOT is taking a closer look at El-Space citywide to assess its potential for future growth with enhanced streetscapes and new public space.

In collaboration with the Design Trust for Public Space and in partnership with various community groups and organizations, the agency has been pursuing “pop-up” installations, demonstrations and pilot tests as well as conducting a study and compiling an inventory of spaces under and adjacent to elevated infrastructure. Through the lessons learned during Phase I and Phase II of the project with the Design Trust, the effort will apply appropriate enhanced lighting, green infrastructure, reflective paint, and seating in response to the myriad conditions that exist in El-Space. The furnishings, which will make up the ”El-Kit,” will enhance the streetscape experience for all users.

El-Space: Experimentation before Implementation

"Under the Elevated: Experimentation before Implementation”
Video by S/Q Projects. Courtesy of the Design Trust for Public Space


DOT has developed designs and is now testing various replicable furnishings and amenities for deployment in El-Space citywide. Among the elements are: reflective paint finishes, LED lighting, and green infrastructure installations as well as the El-Box, El-Fence, and CityEl. DOT will install and evaluate these El-Kit elements in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before moving forward with a citywide application.

Green Infrastructure Garden
Green Infrastructure
Rendering of City El
CityEl (Rendering Credit: Ciocchini Design)
Rendering of the El-Box
El-Box (Rendering Credit: ORE Design)
Rendering of the El-Fence
El-Fence Rendering

Sunset Park El-Space

Located beneath the Gowanus Expressway at 3rd Avenue and 36th Street in Brooklyn, the Sunset Park El-Space features new LED lighting that illuminates the structural surfaces and the volume of space defined by the columns of the viaduct. CorTen steel planters with low-light plantings capture stormwater from the highway above via signature cone-like downspouts. Modular decking and other surface treatments organize the parking spaces while providing pedestrian circulation including a central walkway.

The project partner, Industry City, collaborated on the design, carried out the construction of the project, and is responsible for the maintenance of the amenities. DOT and the Design Trust with Industry City are currently working with a consultant team and other City agencies in evaluating the various treatments.

Pilot: Sunset Park, Brooklyn - Before
(Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
Pilot: Before
Pilot: Sunset Park, Brooklyn - After

Pilot: After

Rockaway Freeway El-Space

The Rockaway Freeway El-Space pilot project is situated on a property adjacent to the elevated A Train Beach 60th Street station near the Rockaway Freeway. The green infrastructure initiative includes a dune-like planter with perimeter seating and specialized plantings that filtrate the stormwater runoff from the elevated train structure. The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) is the project partner; the effort is linked to RWA’s ongoing efforts such as Project Underway and Art Under the Elevated.

Pilot: Rockaway Freeway, Queens - Before
(Rockaway Freeway, Queens)
Pilot: Before
Pilot: Rockaway Freeway, Queens - After

Pilot: After

El-Box at the Brooklyn Bridge Arches

DOT partnered with the Old Seaport Alliance (OSA), to launch the "El-Box” underneath and adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge arches on Frankfort Street near Rose and Gold streets in Lower Manhattan. A retrofitted shipping container that served food and beverages aligned with OSA’s Bridge-to-Boats initiative provided a stop along the way for people going to and from the Brooklyn Bridge and visiting the Financial District, Chinatown and Seaport communities.

Pilot: Brooklyn Bridge Arches, Manhattan - Before
(Brooklyn Bridge Arches, Manhattan)
Pilot: Before
Pilot: Brooklyn Bridge Arches, Manhattan - After. Credit: ORE Design

Pilot: After (Design Credit: ORE Design)