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NY MTA may turn idle subway station into a park

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering a proposal to build an underground park at a subway station partly idled when trolleys stopped running in 1948, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The project has been dubbed the "Low Line," a play on the name of the wildly popular High Line Park that was built on top of an abandoned elevated rail line that runs north from the West Village to Midtown.

The new park concept is the first proposal formally presented to the agency for the Delancey Street Station, which opened in 1903 and served eight trolley lines from Brooklyn. The idle part of the station, which has tracks, an overhead power line and a booth, can still be seen by subway riders traveling through the station's active part.

The MTA also believes the 60,000-square-foot space under Manhattan's Lower East Side could be turned into a restaurant, a night club, a health club or shops. All those entities would produce badly needed revenue for the MTA, the biggest U.S. transit authority.

The cash-poor agency runs New York City's buses, subways and major river crossings. Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday that the MTA is struggling to pay for its proposed $22.2 billion capital plan.

For at least the past decade, the MTA has been trying to slash costs and improve efficiencies, and lately it has been trying to wring more cash out of its real estate holdings.

Though a plan to build a skyscraper atop its midtown Manhattan bus terminal has stalled again, the 12-tower Hudson Yards project got a boost this month. Luxury retailer Coach Inc said it planned to buy part of a tower that Related Companies will build on the Hudson Yards. Related Companies leased the site, the MTA's west Midtown rail yards, and the developer is building a roof over them.

The agency is in the early stages of considering how best to use the Delancey Street Station. Any park creators or developers would have to go through a public bidding process.

One of the attractions of this location, which can be viewed on a video posted on the MTA's website, is that it lies underneath several vacant lots that New York City plans to make available to developers. The MTA video can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/MTA.info.

A spokesman for the Low Line project, whose web site is http://delanceyunderground.org, was not immediately available.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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