High Line (New York City)

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High Line Park
High Line 20th Street looking downtown.jpg
The High Line Park, an aerial greenway, at 20th Street looking downtown. The vegetation was chosen to pay homage to the wild plants that had colonized the abandoned railway before it was repurposed.
West side line.png
Map (2011)
Type elevated urban linear park; public park
Location Manhattan, New York City
Area 1 mile (1.6 km)[1] open of 1.45-mile (2.33 km)[2] planned total
Created 2009 (2009)
Operated by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Status Open
Website http://www.thehighline.org/

The High Line Park (shortened as the High Line, which is also used to refer to the viaduct itself) is a 1-mile (1.6 km)[1] New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile (2.33 km)[2] section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur, the West Side Line. The railroad line has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park, which was inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) Promenade plantée, a similar project in Paris completed in 1993.[3][4]

The High Line Park uses the disused southern portion of the West Side Line running to the Lower West Side of Manhattan. It currently runs from Gansevoort Street, three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District, to 30th Street, through Chelsea. An unopened section runs to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street, near the Javits Convention Center; a spur extends from the 30th Street junction to Tenth Avenue. Formerly, the High Line went as far south as a railroad terminal to Spring Street just north of Canal Street, but the lower section was demolished in 1960.[5]

Repurposing of the railway into an urban park began construction in 2006,[6][7] with the first phase opening in 2009[8]and the second phase opening in 2012.[1][9][10][11] The third and final phase will open in the fall of 2014.[12] The project has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods which lie along the line.[13]


Train passing underneath the Bell Laboratories Building, seen from Washington Street in 1936. This section still exists.
Phase 3 section, looking west in 2009. The line climbs along the south side of 34th Street, and curves south.

Rail line[edit]

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.[14] Yet so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that Tenth Avenue became known as "Death Avenue".[15][16]

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 (21 km) project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings and added 32 acres (13 ha) to Riverside Park. It cost over $150 million, about $2 billion in 2009 dollars.[14][16]

The High Line, then a portion of the West Side 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 load and unload their cargo inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets.[14] 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.[17][16]

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.[18][16]

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 Spring Street just north of Canal Street,[19] 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.[14][16]

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.[20][14] During the late 1980s, the north end of the High Line was disconnected from the rest of the national railroad system with the construction of the Empire Connection to Penn Station, which opened in 1991. In the 1990s, as the line lay unused and in disrepair (despite the fact that the riveted steel elevated structure was structurally 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.[21][16]


In 1999, the non-profit Friends of the High Line[14] 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.[16] CSX Transportation, which owned the High Line, had given photographer Joel Sternfeld permission to photograph the line for a year. These photos of the natural beauty of the meadow-like wildscape of the railway were used at public meetings whenever the subject of saving the High Line was discussed.[22] Diane von Furstenberg, who had moved her New York City headquarters to the Meatpacking District in 1997, organized fund-raising events for the campaign in her studio, along with her husband, Barry Diller.[22] 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. In total, funders of the High Line Park raised over $150 million in 2009 dollars.[23]

Reconstructed tracks at 20th Street
The High Line Park between 14th and 15th streets where the tracks run through the second floor of the Chelsea Market building, with a side track and pedestrian bridge
The High Line Park runs under the Standard Hotel
Urban theater at 10th Avenue and 17th Street: a window over the avenue provides unusual views

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, then-Mayor Bloomberg presided over a ceremony that marked the beginning of construction. 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,[6] and engineering design by Buro Happold.[7] Major backers included Philip Falcone and Diane von Fürstenberg, her husband Barry Diller, and her children Alexander von Fürstenberg and Tatiana von Fürstenberg.[24] 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.[25]

The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009.[8] This southern section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street.[26] Around the same time, construction for the second section began.[27]

On June 7, 2011 a ribbon was cut to open the second High Line Park 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.[1][9][10][11]

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,[24] 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.[28] Construction on the final section was started in September 2012;[12] the third and final phase will open in Fall 2014.[29][30] The third phase, costing US$76 million, will be divided into two parts.[31] The first part, which will open in Fall 2014, is from the end of the existing Phase 2 of the High Line to the line's terminus at 34th Street west of 11th Avenue.[31] The second part, the spur, will contain such amenities as a bowl-shaped theater (which will not be completed until a few years after the High Line Park is completely opened).[32][33][32] It will also be integrated with 10 Hudson Yards,[34] which has already been built over the High Line Spur as of December 2013.[35]


The center section, which opened June 2011
The third phase of the High Line Park, above 30th Street, incomplete

The recycling of the railway into an urban park has bought on the revitalization of Chelsea[36] and spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line.[13] 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.[8] However, the real estate boom has not been victimless; many well-established businesses in west Chelsea have closed due to loss of neighborhood customer base or rent increases.[37]

Crime has been, unusually, extraordinarily low in the park. Shortly after the second section opened in 2011, The New York Times reported that there have been no reports of major crimes such as assaults or robberies since its first phase opened two years prior. Parks Enforcement Patrols have written summonses for various infractions of park rules, such as walking dogs or bicycles on the walkway, but at a rate lower than in Central Park, despite the Central Park's location in tony Upper Manhattan. Park advocates attributed that to the high visibility of the High Line from the surrounding buildings, a feature of traditional urbanism espoused by author Jane Jacobs nearly 50 years earlier. "Empty parks are dangerous", David told the newspaper. "Busy parks are much less so. You’re virtually never alone on the High Line."[38]

Residents who have bought apartments next to the High Line Park have adapted to its presence in varying ways. For the most part though, their responses are positive.[39]

A New Yorker columnist was of the opinion, when reviewing the diner renamed for the High Line Park, that "the new Chelsea that is emerging on weekends as visitors flood the elevated park ... [is] touristy, overpriced, and shiny."[40]

The success of the High Line Park 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.[41] Several cities also have plans to renovate some railroad infrastructure into park land, including Philadelphia and St. Louis. In Chicago, where the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.7 miles (4.3 km)-long linear park on former railroad infrastructure, will run through several neighborhoods. It costs substantially less to redevelop an abandoned urban rail line into a linear park than to demolish it.[41] 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.[41][41]

Due to the popularity of the High Line Park, there have been several proposals for museums along its path. The Dia Art Foundation considered but rejected a proposal to build a museum at the Gansevoort Street terminus. On that site, the Whitney Museum is currently constructing a new home for its collection of American art. The building was designed by Renzo Piano and will open in 2015.[42][43]

In Queens, the Queensway, a proposed High Line-like park, is being considered for reactivation along the right-of-way of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch.[44]


The park extends from Gansevoort Street north to 30th Street where the elevated tracks turn west around the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project[45] to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on 34th Street, though the northern section is expected to be integrated within the Hudson Yards development[46] and the Hudson Park and Boulevard. When the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project's Western Rail Yard is finished in 2018, it will be elevated above the High Line Park, so an exit along the viaduct will be located over the West Side Yard, exiting out to the Western Rail Yard of Hudson Yards.[31] The 34th Street/Eleventh Avenue entrance will be at grade level, with wheelchair access.[31]

The park's attractions include naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks[47] and new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River. 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.[48][49] 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.[50]

The High Line Park 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. 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.[51] 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 Park.[52]

The park is open daily from 7 am to 10 pm, and can be reached through nine entrances, five of which are accessible to people with disabilities. The wheelchair-accessible entrances, each with stairs and an elevator, are at Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th Streets. Addiional staircase-only entrances are located at 18th, 20th, 26th, and 28th Streets.[53] The future entrances, both with wheelchair access, are to 12th Avenue and to the 34th Street ramp.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 1979: The opening sequence of the film Manhattan includes a shot of the High Line, as director and star Woody Allen speaks the first line: "Chapter One. He adored New York City."
  • 1984: Director Zbigniew Rybczyński shoots the video for Art Of Noise's recording Close (to the Edit) on the High Line.
  • 1988: The protagonist and his boyfriend trespass onto the then-overgrown High Line in Fun Down There.
  • 2001: In Walking the High Line photographer Joel Sternfeld documented the dilapidated conditions and the natural flora of the High Line between 2000 and 2001. The book also contains essays by Adam Gopnik and John R. Stilgoe.[54]
  • 2007: The High Line is discussed in Alan Weisman's The World Without Us as an example of the reappearance of the wild in an abandoned area.
  • 2007: Some chase scenes in the film I Am Legend were filmed under the High Line and in the Meatpacking District.
  • 2009: The 2009 hip-hop song "The High Line" by Kinetics & One Love is a pro-green song which uses the High Line, before its conversion into a park, as an example of nature's reclamation of man-made structures.[55]
  • 2011: The High Line Park appears in a scene in the second season of Louie as the site of one of the title character's dates.
  • 2011: The High Line Park is featured in the song "The Marching Line" by pop singer Vanessa Carlton on her fourth studio album Rabbits on the Run.
  • 2012: A scene in the first season of Girls, a series on HBO, features the High Line Park.
  • 2012: In the Simpsons episode "Moonshine River", the Simpsons go to New York City, where Bart went on an outing on the High Line Park with his former girlfriend.
  • 2012: The movie What Maisie Knew features a scene where Maisie and Lincoln play at the High Line Park.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d "Section 2 of the High Line Is Now Open". Friends of the High Line. June 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  3. ^ "Friends of the High Line Blog". August 12, 2004. Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  4. ^ "Friends of the High Line Blog". February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  5. ^ "The High Line" on NYC Architecture
  6. ^ a b "The Business of The High Line". Inc. October 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  7. ^ a b Buro Happold. "High Line". Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  8. ^ a b c Pogrebin, Robin (June 8, 2009). "First Phase of High Line Is Ready for Strolling". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  9. ^ a b Marritz, Ilya (June 7, 2011). "As the High Line Grows, Business Falls in Love with a Public Park". WNYC. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  10. ^ a b Browne, Alex (June 7, 2011). "High Notes - New Art on the High Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  11. ^ a b Pesce, Nicole Lyn (June 7, 2011). "Hotly anticipated second section of the High Line opens, adding 10 blocks of elevated park space". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  12. ^ a b Katz, Mathew (September 20, 2012). "High Line Begins Construction On Third And Final Section (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Gregor, Alison (August 10, 2010). "As a Park Runs Above, Deals Stir Below". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f "High Line History". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  15. ^ Gray, Christopher (December 22, 2011). "When a Monster Plied the West Side". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2014. "The New York World referred to the West Side route as Death Avenue in 1892, long after the Park Avenue problem had been solved, saying 'many had been sacrificed' to 'a monster which has menaced them night and day.'" 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Amateau, Albert (April 30 – May 6, 2008). "Newspaper was there at High Line’s birth and now its rebirth". The Villager. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  17. ^ "History". Chelsea Market. Retrieved 2010-07-14. "In 1932, the architect Louis Wirsching Jr. replaced some of the 1890 bakeries on the east side of 10th Avenue with the present unusual structure, which accommodates an elevated freight railroad viaduct. Its great open porch on the second and third floors was taken by the railroad as an easement for the rail tracks that still run through it." 
  18. ^ Gray, Christopher (May 18, 2008). "As High Line Park Rises, a Time Capsule Remains". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  19. ^ "West Side Line & Selkurk Hurdle" (map)
  20. ^ Freeman, John (May 13, 2007). "The Charming Gadfly Who Saved the High Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  21. ^ Goldberger, Paul (2012-05-15). "Miracle Above Manhattan". National Geographic. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  22. ^ a b Doyle, Chesney and Spann, Susan. "Elevated Thinking: The High Line in New York City" Great Museums (TV, 2014)
  23. ^ Rails to Trails Conservancy: Trail of the Month, October 2011
  24. ^ a b Taylor, Kate (November 1, 2011). "Coach Inc. Agrees to Occupy Third of Hudson Yards Tower". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  25. ^ Ouroussoff, Nicolai (April 8, 2009). "Industrial Sleek (a Park Runs Through It)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  26. ^ Friends of the High Line—High Line Map
  27. ^ Chan, Sewell (June 25, 2008). "High Line Designs Are Unveiled". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  28. ^ Keith, Kelsey. "Third Section of High Line Is On The Docket, On Google Maps", Curbed (November 1, 2011)
  29. ^ Battaglia, Andy. "Artist's 'Ruins' Rise on the High Line - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  30. ^ "High Line at the Rail Yards | Friends of the High Line". Thehighline.org. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  31. ^ a b c d e "Hudson Yards Set to Alter Skyline, Transform Neighborhood". Chelsea Now. February 6, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Alberts, Hana R. (2013-11-12). "Here Now, The Giant, Verdant Bowl In The Next High Line Phase - Rendering Reveals". CurbedNY. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  33. ^ "High Line Park will be capped with a giant bowl theater". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  34. ^ 10 Hudson Yards fact sheet
  35. ^ Fedak, Nikolai (December 13, 2013). "Construction Update: 10 Hudson Yards". New York YIMBY. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  36. ^ Koblin, John (April 2, 2007). "High Line Park Spurs Remaking Of Formerly Grotty Chelsea". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  37. ^ Moss, Jeremiah (August 21, 2012), "Disney World on the Hudson", New York Times, retrieved 2012-08-22 
  38. ^ Wilson, Michael (June 10, 2011). "The Park Is Elevated. Its Crime Rate Is Anything But.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  39. ^ Kurutz, Steven (August 1, 2012). "Close Quarters". The New York Times. p. D1. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  40. ^ Levy, Ariel (August 8, 2011). "Tables for Two: The Highliner". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  41. ^ a b c d Shevory, Kristina (August 3, 2011). "Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks [Print edition title: After the High Line, Old Tracks Get Another Look]". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  42. ^ Vogel, Carol (October 25, 2006). "Dia Art Foundation Calls Off Museum Project". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  43. ^ Whitney Museum New Building Project
  44. ^ Friends of the QueensWay
  45. ^ Topousis, Tom (December 8, 2006). "Rail Shot at Prosperity". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  46. ^ "10 Hudson Yards Building Plan | Hudson Yards". Hudsonyardsnewyork.com. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  47. ^ "Planting Design". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  48. ^ "Construction". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  49. ^ Berens, Carol (July 5, 2010). "The High Line". UrbDeZine. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  50. ^ "Wood on the High Line". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  51. ^ Vogel, Carol (May 21, 2009). "Seeing the Hudson River Through 700 Windows". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  52. ^ Dobrzynski, Judith H. (May 21, 2009). "Taking the High Line: the art park that rivals MoMA". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  53. ^ "Park Information". Friends of the High Line. June 8, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  54. ^ Sternfeld, Joel; Stilgoe, John R.; Gopnik, Adam (2001). Walking the High Line. New York: Steidl/Pace/MacGill Gallery. ISBN 978-3-88243-726-3. 
  55. ^ "Rap Genius: Lyrics and Explanations for the Kinetics & One Love song "The High Line"". 


External links[edit]