If there is anything Marty McFly and Doc Brown taught us about the future it’s that it’s a fascinating, cool, and very, very complicated place. With the expansion of the Highline up above ground, and the buzz of the Lowline afoot underground, we’re turning our noggins to the New York of tomorrow.
We talked with Mike Taubleb, the organizer of the Brooklyn Futurist Meetup, to make sense of these perplexing times ahead of us. We got the skinny on some of their upcoming projects, ideas about futuristic trends, and an update on one of Taubleb’s favorite projects, the Lowline.
The Futurists have been around for about three and half years, and they’ve been covering everything from technology, like 3D printing and web privacy, to the unexpected, like the future of chocolate and the commercialization of space.
“We wanted to focus on big, long-term projects — more than what's just happening this year or next year,” Taubleb said. “We look at things that could be 10 years out or more.”
Taubleb took the reins of the Brooklyn Futurists last year after he became involved in their thought-provoking meetings. Earlier this month, he and the group brought in the founders of the Lowline, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, to hear more about the serious architecture and design behind building the underground park. “The Lowline was a pet project of mine when I picked up this meeting,” Taubleb said. “There’s an inertia when getting something this big accomplished. It just hasn't been done before.”
The whole project is about seven to eight years away from being built inside the long abandoned train yard near the Lower East Side’s Essex Street subway station. But there’s plenty to be done in the meantime. “It’s a long process to get the ownership of the underground space transferred from the MTA to the city,” Taubleb said. “Right now, they’re raising money and envisioning this as public/private partnership. Plus, a lot of local politicians want [the park] done, too.”
The Lowline’s founders have even begun developing their own technology to channel real sunlight down into the subterranean park, where plants could eventually grow and humans could kick back for some Vitamin D. The plan would use light collection dishes and fiber optics to make it all happen.
So what could this mean for our city as a whole? “People see that these abandoned public spaces can be turned into something,” Taubleb said. “ The Lowline would change the landscape of the Lower East Side. There’s a small amount of public space there and there will be even less with all the condos and other new buildings being built.”
Taubleb has noticed more than just architectural trends popping up in the city. “The sharing economy is something I’d like to look into next,” he said. “People are using things like AirBnB and other services that allow them to rent things from each other. This type of thing can basically pay someone’s rent.” Paying those bills sounds good to us.
Curious about the sharing-savvy future? Since Doc has advised us against attempting time travel, we’d recommend checking out one of the Futurist meetups. “Our group has a lot of people who are entrepreneurs, who are in tech or media professions, PR or marketing, writers of varying sorts, journalists, people who are into sci-fi, and people in academia — anybody who has an interest in the future or long term thinking would work for this,” Taubleb said. “The group has a positive kind of outlook and it's stimulating.”
Visit Brooklyn Futurist’s website for info. on their upcoming meetups and check out videos from past events.