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Thread: The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

  1. #151
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Saving flora from where freight cars once rumbled


    Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel
    Seed collectors on the High Line, looking north from 27th St.

    thevillager.com
    By Albert Amateau

    A perfect October afternoon — no clouds, little wind and cool temperature — brought out about 60 men and women to the still wild north end of the High Line to collect seeds from the wind-sown plants growing on the railroad viaduct for 25 years.

    Equipped with clippers and paper bags and led by botanists from the Department of Parks and staff members of Friends of the High Line, the collectors in groups of 10 entered at 34th St. where the rail line dips to street level before it proceeds north below grade.

    The High Line’s southern portion — from Gansevoort to 20th Sts. — is in the midst of being transformed into a park-in-the-sky and is stripped down to steel and concrete, so the seed collectors went down only as far as 23rd St.

    “I wanted to come here while it’s still wild,” said Tara Giles, of Brooklyn, “to get some before-and-after pictures. I’ll get the ‘after’ pictures when the park opens.” Giles, who works with Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, has been following the progress of the High Line project for a couple of years, and the fine weather on Oct. 14 brought her to 34th St.

    A monarch butterfly alights on some throughwort on the High Line
    at 30th St. and 10th Ave.

    The south end of the project, with stairs and elevators from the street, footpaths, benches and plantings that approximate the wild growth is expected to be open to the public in the spring of 2008, and the conversion of the north end will follow.

    “Plants mature at different times,” Meredith Taylor, Friends of the High Line special events director, told a small group of collectors. “So we’re focusing on four species today. A couple of weeks ago the tall throughwort was at its height and the High Line was full of monarch butterflies that feed on them,” Taylor recalled.

    The seeds — 74 species grow on the High Line, 39 of them native to this region — will go to a seed bank at the Department of Parks’ Greenbelt Natural Plant Center on Staten Island. A selection from those seeds will be planted at a Greenstreets space at street level close to the High Line at 14th St. and 10th Ave. as a mirror of the original High Line flora.

    “Field Operations, the design team for the project, also hopes that some of these seeds will be planted on the 34th-to-23rd-St. section of the High Line,” said Tim Chambers, director of the Staten Island plant center.

    Collectors walking the High Line passed through what appeared to be definite zones of plant life. At 34th St. where the tracks are at sidewalk level, the plant life is lush and includes an apple tree loaded with ripe fruit. The apples looked and tasted like golden delicious and were delicious indeed. Some passerby must have tossed an apple core over the fence several years ago.

    Two-foot-tall plants bearing profusions of small white flowers with yellow centers covered one section of the viaduct.

    “Asters,” Chambers said. Similar plants bearing small violet flowers with yellow centers — another variety of asters — dominated another stretch.

    Then came a patch of plants with spikes of waxy green pods.

    “Primrose,” said Paula de la Cruz, a volunteer with Friends of the High Line who lives in the East Village and operates her own landscape consulting firm, Allscape Design.

    “Primrose is rich in omega fatty acids and it’s used in supplements — good for vitamin E deficiency — definitely in the U.S.F.D.A. list,” said de la Cruz, who worked for Millennium Seed Bank in Britain in 2004. “We collected seeds in Africa — in Namibia — for three months. We slept on the banks of a river. Our truck fell into a hole. It was fun but very hard work,” she recalled.

    Terry Cullimore, a Penn South resident, who was active in the successful two-year fight against the proposed Jets Stadium over the 30th St. rail yards, recalled that she had been on the High Line on a tour about a year ago.

    “But this is different. This is doing something — collecting seeds so that future generations can see what we see,” she added.

    One patch of the High Line at about 28th St. had trees 3 feet to 4 feet tall — silver maple saplings, small elms.

    “They grow here where the buildings provide shade and trap moisture,” Chambers noted. Ailanthus, an import many years ago from China commonly known as “the tree of heaven,” which grows all over the city, is also a High Line species.

    “We don’t need to seed bank ailanthus,” Chambers said.

    Jan Levy, an Upper West Side resident and former member of Community Board 7, remembered that the late Peter Obletz, who died about 11 years ago, controlled the High Line for a while in the 1980s after paying Conrail a token $10. Obletz, who once lived in a railroad car in the 30th St. rail yards, organized The West Side Rail Foundation to preserve the elevated structure, completed in 1933 by the New York Central Railroad. The viaduct last carried a trainload of frozen turkeys to the Gansevoort Meat Market in 1980.

    “Peter’s idea was that the High Line could be used to haul construction debris out of Manhattan,” Levy said. “If it weren’t for Peter, we wouldn’t be standing her now. I want to get Friends of the High Line to name at least part of the High Line for him,” she said.

    The Bloomberg administration decided in 2002 to save the High Line. The city acquired ownership of most of the line from the last owner, CSX, in 2005 when the line was designated as part of the federal Rails to Trails program. However, CSX still owns the stretch from 34th St. to 30th Sts. that sweeps around the rail yards, as well as the spur that goes to the east to the Morgan Post Office Annex.

    “The trail designation goes all the way to 34th St., but the city was hesitant about taking that stretch because there were still uncertainties about the park,” Meredith said. “We’re pretty secure now and we’re working with CSX on the change. CSX wants to give it up and the process is going pretty well.”

    © 2006 Community Media, LLC

  2. #152

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    October 25, 2006
    Dia Art Foundation Abandons Plans for a Museum at High Line
    By CAROL VOGEL


    A rendering of the preliminary design for the High Line.

    With no director and a board in flux, the Dia Art Foundation has scrapped its plans to open a museum at the entrance to the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway line in Manhattan. The area, running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, is to become a park with the help of city money.

    Nathalie de Gunzburg, Dia’s new board chairwoman, informed the city of the decision yesterday in a letter to Kate D. Levin, New York’s cultural affairs commissioner. “Dia’s board has decided that the organization should take a different course at this time,” she said.

    Reached by telephone, Ms. Levin said that other cultural organizations had approached the city about the High Line site, but she declined to specify which ones.

    Officials familiar with the High Line discussions said that the Whitney Museum of American Art had emerged as a high-profile contender.

    Trustees at the Whitney are mulling whether to proceed with an addition designed by the architect Renzo Piano, those officials said. That plan calls for a series of glass bridges to connect the museum’s original 1966 Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue at 75th Street to a new nine-story tower. The officials said they did not want to be quoted for fear of being perceived as pre-empting a decision by the Whitney board.

    Asked whether the Whitney was considering backing out of the Piano expansion in favor of a site at the High Line, a museum spokeswoman, Jan Rothschild, said yesterday, “The Whitney is keeping its expansion options open,” adding, “We are considering several sites for additional space and have had discussions with the city about the Gansevoort/Washington site.”

    She declined to comment further, but the site abandoned by Dia is at 820 Washington Street, at Gansevoort.

    Amid sharply escalating construction costs, the Whitney trustees are said to be reconsidering whether, after having to raise several hundred million dollars, the museum will end up getting the kind of space it needs.

    Officials familiar with the talks said Whitney trustees and staff members were discussing the possibility of opening a more modest satellite museum downtown, where the Whitney could have larger-scale spaces for cutting-edge artworks as well as attract the young, hip audience who frequents the art and nightclub scene. They emphasized that the talks were preliminary.

    Were the museum to back out of the Piano addition, it would be the third time that it has commissioned a celebrity architect to design a major expansion to its landmark building, only to renege. A $37 million design by Michael Graves was jettisoned in 1985; in 2003 the Whitney backed out of a $200 million addition by Rem Koolhaas.

    Mr. Piano’s project met with heated challenges from preservationists who said a brownstone facade on Madison, part of the Upper East Side Historic District, would be eliminated to make way for the new entrance.

    The architect narrowed the entry, and after a series of hearings, his plan was approved by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals in July.

    Ms. de Gunzburg stressed that Dia, which now operates an exhibition site along the Hudson River in Beacon, N.Y., is still committed to seeking a presence in the city.

    But the first priority, she said, is hiring a successor to Michael Govan, who resigned in February after 12 years as Dia’s director to run the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    “It was a hard decision to make,” she said in a telephone interview yesterday. “But we felt it is more responsible to proceed slowly. We need to find a new director first.”

    Ms. Levin said the city was disappointed that the Dia Foundation was not pursuing the High Line project, on which ground was broken in April. Nonetheless, “they deserve a huge amount of credit for having the idea,” she said. “We think it’s a fabulous complement to have a cultural organization at the entrance to the High Line.”

    The first phase, set to open in spring 2008, will run from Gansevoort Street through 20th Street. For now, 820 Washington Street is an abandoned shell of a structure in the heart of the meatpacking district.

    That the High Line should have a cultural anchor was originally the brainstorm of Mr. Govan, Dia’s longtime director. In May 2005 he announced Dia’s intentions to move to Washington Street from its two spaces on West 22nd Street in Chelsea. (One is now sitting empty; the other has been rented.)

    At the time, he said Dia’s board envisioned transforming the building into 45,000 square feet of raw, open gallery space on two levels, illuminated by skylights. He estimated the cost at about $55 million.

    He said its Chelsea spaces were awkward and could no longer accommodate the crowds.

    The space Mr. Govan had envisioned on Washington Street would have been a place for temporary exhibitions like the ones it had in Chelsea. Dia’s permanent collection, about 700 works by artists who emerged in the 1960’s and 70’s, is housed in Dia:Beacon, a $50 million museum that opened in May 2003 in an abandoned 1929 box factory.

    Laura Raicovich, Dia’s deputy director, said attendance was running about 75,000 a year at the Beacon site, in line with the original projection.

    In addition to its Beacon home, Dia oversees several site-specific art installations, including three works by Walter De Maria: “New York Earth Room” and “Broken Kilometer,” both in Manhattan, and “The Lightning Field,” in New Mexico; and the Dan Flavin Institute in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

    The loss of Mr. Govan was not the only setback at Dia this year. Leonard Riggio, one of the institution’s biggest benefactors, who gave $30 million toward Dia:Beacon, stepped down as chairman in May. Last week he resigned from Dia’s board.

    Mr. Riggio was replaced by Ms. de Gunzburg, a Manhattan philanthropist and collector who has been on Dia’s board for more than two years and headed its committee on trustees.

    Ms. de Gunzburg and Ms. Raicovich declined to say whether there were any front-runners for the director’s post. But people familiar with the search say that one name that has repeatedly surfaced is that of Mark Bessire, director of the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Me.

    “We’re hoping to have a new director within the next two months,” Ms. Raicovich said. “But as of now, no offer has been extended to anyone.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  3. #153

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    Gothamist
    October 26, 2006

    Pigeons Are Disturbing High Line Development

    By Jill Priluck



    High Line photos aren't exactly rare, but, since we happened to be on a nearby roof recently, we took a few.

    It looks like we were onto something. According to Katie Lorah, media and project manager for Friends of the High Line, a new construction phase has begun. Deterring birds is one aspect of it: Pigeons are roosting in the beams, damaging concrete and steel and creating "unpleasant" conditions below. To read about the new phase, called "Site Preparation," check out this week's newsletter.



    And the mess under the High Line is the footprint for Andre Balazs' new hotel, The Standard, which will jut through the elevated park.

    For even more more photos, go to the Friends of the High Line gallery. And the FHL also has a mobile walking tour that you can take (PDF of map and instructions).

    2003-2006 Gothamist LLC.

  4. #154

  5. #155

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strattonport View Post

    What is the name of the blue building in the background. If I am looking at it correctly it is quite unique. There is something, I don't know what, that I really love about it.

  6. #156

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    No one on this message board knows anything about that building.

  7. #157

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    Quote Originally Posted by wonder View Post
    What is the name of the blue building in the background. If I am looking at it correctly it is quite unique. There is something, I don't know what, that I really love about it.
    http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4131
    http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/sh...&postcount=392

  8. #158

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    Quote Originally Posted by wonder View Post
    What is the name of the blue building in the background. If I am looking at it correctly it is quite unique. There is something, I don't know what, that I really love about it.
    Hope we didn't drive you away, wonder. To New Yorkers that's a famous building by Frank Gehry. Really works its magic, eh? Where are you located?

  9. #159
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kris View Post

    Dia Art Foundation Abandons Plans for a Museum at High Line

    ... Officials familiar with the High Line discussions said that the Whitney Museum of American Art had emerged as a high-profile contender.
    Whitney Museum May Move Expansion to Downtown Site

    nytimes.com
    By ROBIN POGREBIN
    October 31, 2006

    The Whitney Museum of American Art, after fighting for more than a year to have an addition to its Madison Avenue building approved, has all but decided that moving its expansion to another site would make more sense, people involved in the process say.

    The museum won its struggle to have the city approve a tower designed by the architect Renzo Piano. But after weighing the pros and cons, those familiar with the process say, the Whitney has determined that the Piano project may not get the museum sufficient additional space for the money.

    The museum has instead set its sights on a location downtown at the entrance to the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway that is to become a landscaped esplanade. The Dia Art Foundation announced last week that it no longer planned to build a museum there.

    This marks a striking turn of events for the Whitney, since the museum has tried for 20 years to add onto its 1966 Marcel Breuer building. In July the museum finally completed the public approvals process and was allowed to go forward.

    Leonard A. Lauder, the Whitney’s chairman, declined to be interviewed. “Our responsibility is to ensure the long term programmatic and financial health of the Whitney,” said Jan Rothschild, a museum spokeswoman. “It would be easy to forge ahead with the expansion on Madison Avenue. We have received the necessary approvals from the city, and our fund-raising is going extremely well, but we want to make sure it is the best option for the program and collection of the museum before moving forward.”

    Board members are reluctant to discuss the High Line possibility, out of concern about offending the political officials whose support they will need to secure the site, those involved in the project say. Others spoke on condition of anonymity because the board had yet to vote on abandoning the Piano plan.

    The board members are coming off a bruising battle with Upper East Side residents and preservationists over the Piano addition. The architect produced many drafts of his design for the tower, which would have been in a designated historic district, after the Landmarks Commission insisted that he halve the width of a new Madison Avenue entrance to preserve a historic brownstone.

    In pricing out the cost of building a nine-story tower behind a row of historic brownstones, which would connect to the Breuer building through a series of glass bridges, the Whitney realized that the addition would add 16,000 to 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, when it had wanted 30,000.

    Construction costs have skyrocketed since the museum started planning for Mr. Piano’s addition, now estimated at $200 million, which — with an endowment drive — would bring the fund-raising goal to $500 million. The excavation would have to be done from behind the brownstones, an expensive and logistically challenging proposition. By contrast, the excavation involved in renovating the Morgan Library and Museum — also designed by Mr. Piano — was done from the street.

    Building at the downtown site would allow the Whitney to keep operating at its uptown location throughout the construction. To build the Piano addition, it would have been forced to close for two years, losing its presence at precisely the time that the New Museum of Contemporary Art was reopening in its new building on the Bowery.

    The museum could sell the historic brownstones and use the proceeds toward constructing a building downtown. And the city might contribute funds for a downtown Whitney because it owns the site and has an interest in anchoring the High Line with a cultural attraction. The city had committed $8 million to the Dia project.

    Dia had envisioned a two-story structure with 45,000 square feet of gallery space over two floors at a cost of $55 million, although the Whitney is expected to build something very different if it goes there.

    Many arts professionals in the city are asking why the Whitney is considering other options after spending so much time, effort and money fighting for the Piano expansion.

    This is not the first time the Whitney’s expansion plans have foundered. The board scrapped a $37 million design by Michael Graves in 1985 and a $200 million design by Rem Koolhaas in 2003.

    Its institutional reputation too has encountered rough spots. Adam D. Weinberg was hired as the Whitney’s director in 2003, the third in six years.

    Two museum board members resigned in the aftermath of controversy, including L. Dennis Kozlowski, who was convicted of looting Tyco of $150 million, and Jean-Marie Messier, who resigned as chief executive of Vivendi Universal because of the company’s poor performance.

    Other museums in Manhattan, meanwhile, have been in the spotlight with successful expansions, like the Museum of Modern Art’s new $858 million building and the New Museum’s current $50 million construction project.

    If expansion is a way for the Whitney to reinvent itself and remain competitive, this recent turnaround, viewed in another light, could be seen as realistic and responsible.

    As museums across the country build additions by celebrity architects, many are now struggling with the larger operating budgets that accompany expansion. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, for example, recently decided against excavating under its garden courtyard to create new space and will instead pursue a more modest expansion.

    Speaking of the Whitney, Kate D. Levin, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, said, “It is highly responsible to take stock of whether this is the right step for them, given what they found out about what the building would look like and what it would cost.” At the High Line site, at 820 Washington Street, at Gansevoort Street, the Whitney could establish the downtown outpost that many in the art world have long said the museum should have, a hip, more youthful presence suitable to its mission as the artists’ museum.

    Now the Upper East Siders who vehemently opposed the expansion in their neighborhood are celebrating. In an e-mail message last week to fellow members of the Coalition of Concerned Whitney Neighbors, Edward Klimerman wrote, “Hope springs eternal.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  10. #160

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    Thank the NIMBYs.

  11. #161
    The Dude Abides
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    Quote Originally Posted by New York Times
    Now the Upper East Siders who vehemently opposed the expansion in their neighborhood are celebrating. In an e-mail message last week to fellow members of the Coalition of Concerned Whitney Neighbors, Edward Klimerman wrote, “Hope springs eternal.”
    To all those who are currently siding with the NIMBY's over the proposed Foster tower at 980 Madison, this is even more evidence that function could hardly make a difference towards getting a project approved. Private or public, these NIMBY's view a project in the same narrow-minded way: how high is it, and how un-historic does it look?

  12. #162
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    Thank the NIMBYs.
    This is really more about 2 things :

    1) Cost -- see the article.

    2) Demographics -- hate to say it, but nowadays Madison Avenue is perceived as where people go to die -- 40 years ago when the Whitney was planned / went up that area was a hot bed of money & creativity, but no more. The Meatpacking District is perceived as young and happening -- something the Whitney desperately needs to hook into if it is going to survive in coming generations.

  13. #163

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    This is really more about 2 things :
    1) Cost.
    The NIMBYs helped make it expensive with delays and lawsuits. Construction costs are rising at 2% per month, and lawyers don't work for peanuts. (Doesn't help that their architect spends money without much to show for it.)

    2) Demographics -- hate to say it, but nowadays Madison Avenue is perceived as where people go to die -- 40 years ago when the Whitney was planned / went up that area was a hot bed of money & creativity, but no more. The Meatpacking District is perceived as young and happening -- something the Whitney desperately needs to hook into if it is going to survive in coming generations.
    As you point out, the Meatpacking District is doing fine on the cutting edge. Madison Avenue could use a shot in the arm by just this kind of revitalization.
    Last edited by ablarc; October 31st, 2006 at 04:15 PM. Reason: typo

  14. #164
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Moderators: It seems that this thread and the one entitled Highline Area Development are now covering the same territory --

    Should they be combined into one thread?

  15. #165

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    A merger would make the resulting single thread confusing due to the inevitable mixed posts.

    It's useful to distinguish between the High Line park and cultural facilities and the residential development in the area.

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