Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The High Line is an elevated railway recycle transformed into a public park on Manhattan's West Side.

The High Line is a 1-mile New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan; it has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway. A similar project in Paris, the 3-mile Promenade plantée, completed in 1993, was the inspiration for this project. The High Line currently runs from Gansevoort Street, three blocks below West 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District, to 30th Street, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to the West Side Yard, near the Javits Convention Center. Formerly, the viaduct of the High Line went as far south as Canal Street (where the entrance to the Holland Tunnel is now), but the lower section was demolished in 1960. The recycling of the railway into an urban park has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods which lie along the line.

Rev: "In the cold winter months, there are far fewer tourists clogging the pathways. It's well worth an early morning visit to enjoy an elevated jog above the city!"
In 1847, the City of New York authorized street-level railroad tracks down Manhattan’s West Side. For safety, the railroads hired men the "West Side Cowboys" to ride horses and wave flags in front of the trains. Yet so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that 10th Avenue became known as "Death Avenue".

After years of public debate about the hazard, in 1929 the city and the state of New York and the New York Central Railroad agreed on the West Side Improvement Project, which included the High Line. The 13-mile project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings and added 32 acres to Riverside Park. It cost over $150 million, about $2 billion in 2009 dollars.

Rev: "Lucky to find a sunny day (still only 32 def F/0 deg C) but walked the Highline which was one of the highlights on 2 week NY trip. Will have to come back in Summer and re-walk it. Great views of city and very well laid out on existing EL."
The High Line opened to trains in 1934. It originally ran from 34th Street to St. John's Park Terminal, at Spring Street. It was designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue, to avoid the drawbacks of elevated trains. It connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets. This also reduced pilferage for the Bell Laboratories Building, now the Westbeth Artists Community, and the Nabisco plant, now Chelsea Market, which were served from protected sidings within the structures.

Rev: "We go to the High Line as often as we can. It's a beautiful spot for a walk. And it's nice to get off the streets for a little peace and quiet every once in a while. Love it!"
Rev: "This is the third time I've been here. Each time an additional section has been built and its conclusion can now be seen, even if the last block or so is not quite finished. The final result will be an elevated structure that extends from just below 14th Street on the far west side of Manhattan up to 30th Street and a view on the Hudson River. At various points, there are entrances/exits, always stairs and sometimes an elevator.

So, what IS the High Line? Think of it as a boardwalk, but instead of running along the ocean and beach, it runs along the Hudson River. It also runs in between and under various high-rise buildings, a route that provides it with a city feeling that few boardwalks have."
"While there is wood on this boardwalk, there is also concrete, plantings, trees, etc., a wide variety of surfaces. There are also places where people can sit, either on benches or folding chairs. There is even one place where one could seat an audience. It's funky, creative, and unique. That's why I give it Five Dots; along with other must-see NYC landmarks, this is the new one.

One word of warning, as with any boardwalk locale near water, this place will no doubt be cold in the winter, so dress warm if that's the time you have to go. And in summer, where a hat because there's little in the way of shade for most of its length."

Rev: "Get a cup of coffee and walk the whole line from about 12th st to the 30ths with lots of entrances and exits. Good sculpture and people watching."
The train also passed underneath the Western Electric complex at Washington Street. This section has survived until today and is not connected with the rest of the developed park. The growth of interstate trucking in the 1950s led to a drop in rail traffic throughout the nation. In the 1960s, the southernmost section of the line was demolished. This section started at Gansevoort Street and ran down Washington Street as far as Canal Street, representing almost half of the line. The last train on the remaining part of the line was operated by Conrail in 1980 with three carloads of frozen turkeys.

Rev: "Entered at 30th Street between 11th and 12th avenues...wonderful walk along the "top" of 10th Avenue. Highly recommend in sunshine or in rain (we had both). Good access and the Gansevoort exit puts you right into Greenwich Village. The Friends of the High Line had great vision and they are to be commended...can hardly wait to see the extension west and north."
In the mid-1980s, a group of property owners with land under the line lobbied for the demolition of the entire structure. Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court and tried to re-establish rail service on the line. In the 1990s, as the line lay unused and in disrepair (despite the fact that the riveted steel elevated structure was basically sound) it became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs, and rugged trees such as sumac that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway. It was slated for demolition under the administration of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Rev: "Don't miss this Manhattan delight, vivid artery flowing thru Chelsea to West Village. A charming piece of modernity keeping disappearing history still living. Beautiful 360 degrees view , very romantic and so exciton, I love this place so much !"
In 1999, the non-profit Friends of the High Line was formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the neighborhood the High Line ran through. They advocated for the Line's preservation and reuse as public open space, an elevated park or greenway, similar to the Promenade Plantée in Paris.

Rev: "New York City's High Line provides a delightful diversion from the city's street-level stresses and concrete format. Tourists and locals alike can reconnect with nature through the innovative transformation of abandoned elevated-train platforms into a public park with unique landscaping designs, benches and tables, even some vendors along the reclaimed route through several west-side neighborhoods. The areas below are themselves experiencing a revitalization where you can find many new restaurant offerings and boutiques around the High Line's various entry/exit points. Fun and free!"
Broadened community support of public redevelopment for the High Line for pedestrian use grew, and in 2004, the New York City government committed $50 million to establish the proposed park. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speakers Gifford Miller and Christine C. Quinn were important supporters.

On June 13, 2005, the U.S. Federal Surface Transportation Board issued a certificate of interim trail use, allowing the City to remove most of the line from the national railway system. On April 10, 2006, Mayor Bloomberg presided over a ceremony that marked the beginning of construction.

Rev: "I was a bit skeptical to walk the high line in December (when it was freezing outside!), but once I got up there I forgot all about the temperature. It was gorgeous. Beautiful trees and plants, stunning design from the benches to the look out points. It is well worth a stroll any time of year."
The park was designed by the James Corner's New York-based landscape architecture firm Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with planting design from Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands, lighting design from L'Observatoire International, and engineering design by Buro Happold. Major backers have included Philip Falcone and Diane von Furstenberg, her husband Barry Diller, and her children Alexander von Furstenberg and Tatiana von Furstenberg. Hotel developer Andre Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, built the 337-room Standard Hotel straddling the High Line at West 13th Street.

Rev: "The High Line is an old railway above the streets of Chelsea (West-Village). It is turned into a park and you can have a really nice walk between the popular and hip Meatpacking District and Midtown Manhattan. From the line you have great views at the city. It's a pity the line is (at this moment) so short. It would be great to have this stroll all the way to uptown Manhattan."
The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009. This southern section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street. On June 7, 2011 a ribbon was cut to open the second High Line section from 20th Street to 30th Street, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler in attendance. The northernmost section, from 30th to 34th Streets, is owned by CSX Transportation, which in 2011 agreed in principle to donate the section to the city, while the Related Companies, which own the development rights to the West Side Rail Yards, agreed not to tear down the spur that crosses 10th Avenue.

Rev: "Absolutely fabulous interactive regeneration of disused elevated railway line. Even in winter and very cold weather was a great walk. Loved the viewing platforms over the streets below. Loved looking into windows at that level and getting a glimpse of life in the meat packer district. Combine with a trip to Chelsea markets and the meatpacker district"
The park extends from Gansevoort Street north to 30th Street where the elevated tracks turn west around the Hudson Yards development projectto the Javits Convention Center on 34th Street. Open daily from 7 am to 10 pm, the park can be reached through nine entrances, four of which are accessible to people with disabilities.

The park's attractions include naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River.

Rev: "We've followed the development of the High Line for more than a decade. We first visited soon after it opened and have been back several times since. It's a great place for a leisurely walk, looking around both near and far.You feel you're both away from the city and immersed in the West Side. Great plantings for all seasons, seating areas, art and sculpture. Fabulous views of the Hudson River waterfront. Lots of interesting people young and old, from the neighborhood and all over the world. Go to walk, or bring along something to read and just hang out.Lots of restaurants along 10th Avenue if you get hungry."
Pebble-dash concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, and divides into concrete tines that meld the hardscape with the planting embedded in railroad gravel mulch. Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line's former use. Portions of track are adaptively re-used for rolling lounges positioned for river views. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush, but not limited to American natives. At the Gansevoort end, a grove of mixed species of birch already provides some dappled shade by late afternoon. Ipê timber for the built-in benches has come from a managed forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, to ensure sustainable use and the conservation of biological diversity, water resources and fragile ecosystems.

Rev: "The highline is nice, a good view down on the city and a nice walk after any of the number of restaurants in Chelsea. One of the few free romantic things to do in the city. Great place to eavesdrop or people watch as well."
The High Line has cultural attractions as well as its integrated architecture and plant life. As part of a long-term plan for the park to host temporary installations and performances of various kinds, Creative Time, Friends of the High Line, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation commissioned The River That Flows Both Ways by Spencer Finch as the inaugural art installation. The work is integrated into the window bays of the former Nabisco Factory loading dock, as a series of 700 purple and grey colored glass panes. Each color is exactly calibrated to match the center pixel of 700 digital pictures, one taken every minute, of the Hudson River, therefore presenting an extended portrait of the river that gives the work its name.

Rev: "The High Line is an amazing project walking on a disused elevated railway line above the city. In the summer there are stalls selling ice pops made from the herbs grown on the High Line. Go now."
Rev: "The landscape architect who created this magnificent space has famously said, "Brown is a color, too", and he's so right. I saw this wonderful space in early December, when the trees were leafless and most of the plants had gone to sleep for the winter, and the ground cover shone in its own special beauty. The normally very busy path had few visitors early in the morning, so I could see all the features, from the amphitheater-like performance spaces, to the benches, which sort of rise organically out of the pebbled concrete. It was enchanting. There were great views of the Hudson, and of the buildings in the area, which this really lovely park has helped to reclaim -- people just naturally want to live near it. It's so very New York to have created this park, and then to support it -- I live on the west coast, and even I was inspired to joint Friends of the High Line. Truly, I love this place!"
Creative Time worked with the artist to realize the site-specific concept, which emerged when he saw the rusted, disused mullions of the old factory, which metal and glass specialists Jaroff Design helped to prepare and reinstall. The summer of 2010 featured a sound installation by Stephen Vitiello, composed from bells heard through New York. Lauren Ross, formerly director of the alternative art space White Columns, is serving as the first curator for the High Line.

Rev: "Amazed to see how they came up with the idea. Love the way the place was recycled to become a park to relax and hang out. Wish more cities would do this."
The recycling of the railway into an urban park has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line. Mayor Bloomberg noted that the High Line project has helped usher in something of a renaissance in the neighborhood: by 2009, more than 30 projects were planned or under construction nearby. On the other hand, the real estate boom has its victims as well: many well-established businesses in West Chelsea have closed due to loss of neighborhood customer base or rent increases. Crime has been extraordinarily low in the park. Shortly after the second section opened, The New York Times reported that there have been no reports of major crimes such as assaults or robberies since it opened.

Rev: "We walk the high line every time we are in New York. Such a great idea to make such use of the (no longer in use) train. It takes you directly into meatpacking district which is always a good place to stop for a drink or bite."
Parks Enforcement Patrols had written summonses for various infractions of park rules, such as walking dogs or bicycles on the walkway, but at a rate lower than Central Park. Park advocates attributed that to the high visibility of the High Line from the surrounding buildings, a design feature inspired by the writings of urbanist Jane Jacobs. "Empty parks are dangerous", David told the newspaper. "Busy parks are much less so. You’re virtually never alone on the High Line."
Residents who have bought apartments next to the High Line have adapted to its presence in varying ways. For the most part though, their responses are positive.

Rev: "Yes, the locals hate us for recommending this and I might hate myself too because it has gotten more crowded each time we go, but this is one of those great New York experiences that shouldn't be missed. How can you pass up old rain tracks turned into a walking part? It is a site to be seen, the flowers/gardens are beautiful and the people watching is first rate."
A New Yorker columnist was of the opinion, when reviewing the diner renamed for the High Line, that "the new Chelsea that is emerging on weekends as visitors flood the elevated park ... [is] touristy, overpriced, and shiny." The success of the High Line in New York City has encouraged the leaders of other cities, such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who see it as "a symbol and catalyst" for gentrifying neighborhoods.

Several cities also have plans to renovate some railroad infrastructure into park land, including Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicago, where the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.7 mile-long linear park on former railroad infrastructure, will run through several neighborhoods.

Rev: "The landscape and views change with the seasons. Worth a visit anytime of year to get a different perspective of NYC. Dedicated volunteers keep the extensive "gardens" tidy and beautiful year round. What took several years to achieve by a couple of steadfast men is now a tribute to the ultimate reuse and recycle mantra: Rails to Trails. and a fabulous place to take a fair weather stroll."
It costs substantially less to redevelop an abandoned urban rail line into a linear park than to demolish it. James Corner, one of its designers, said, "The High Line is not easily replicable in other cities," observing that building a "cool park" requires a "framework" of neighborhoods around it in order to succeed. Due to the popularity of the High Line, there have been several proposals for museums along the High Line. The Dia Art Foundation considered but rejected a proposal to build a museum at the Gansevoort Street terminus. The Whitney Museum plans to build on the site, with a design by Renzo Piano, rather than its initial plan of expanding its existing building by Marcel Breuer uptown. In Queens, the QueensWay, a High Line-like park, is being considered for reactivation along the right-of-way of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch.

Rev: "When you walk the high Line you will get a totally different perspective of new york. Do stop and walk down into some of the neighborhoods. There is a great little restaurant at the bottom of a stair way in the high teens called Le Luncheonette. Different times of year give you a different feeling, but it is enjoyable whenever you go."


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