Activists Pressure Pols on Northern Turn of the High Line; It's in Related's Rail Yards
By Reid Pillifant
April 2, 2009 | 10:32 a.m.
While the bushes are blooming on the soon-to-be-opened southern section of the High Line, a battle is blossoming at City Hall over the fate of the line’s northern section. The battle spawned a rally earlier this week, as activists on behalf of the park continue to demand public supervision of the line's northern spur.
On Tuesday morning, about 70 supporters of the High Line Park donned bright red “Save the High Line” t-shirts and crammed into a small committee room on the 16th floor of 250 Broadway.
Technically, the hearing before the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee was unrelated to the High Line – it concerned two zoning amendments to the adjoining rail yards being developed by the Related Companies that don’t directly affect the elevated park – but that didn’t stop Friends of the High Line from declaring it “the most important public hearing since 2005.”
“The whole of the High Line at the rail yards is not guaranteed,” testified Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line. Mr. Hammond hoped the sea of red shirts would help convince the city to take control of the section that crosses through the rail yards. “City acquisition of the High Line would be the first step toward preservation of the structure."
The northern section was not transferred to the Parks Department in 2005, along with the rest of the line, because, at the time, the M.T.A. and the city were still unsure of their plans for the rail yards. The line’s current owner, CSX, appears willing to donate the remaining section of the High Line to the city at no cost, just as did with the preceding sections, but the city has yet to take up the offer. (Map of the High Line here in a PDF, showing its slice through the yards.)
The yards’ developer, the Related Companies, says it has included the High Line in its plans, and that it remains committed to preserving the northern spur as a public park. But Mr. Hammond would like to see the city take possession regardless as part of the land-use review process for the yards slated to start this summer.
“It would just make us feel more comfortable for the city to be in control, and for the ultimate decision about the High Line to rest with the city, and not with a developer,” Mr. Hammond said after the meeting.
The city appears unwilling, at least for now, to publicly force Related into accepting the park. The High Line is just one of myriad issues to be settled in the re-zoning process of the western half of the rail yards, and some suspect Related would like to avoid a public guarantee in order to use the potential park as a bargaining chip for other deals, such as the amount of affordable housing or the inclusion of a school on the site.
The meeting was moved to 250 Broadway after the Council Committee Room inside City Hall was closed for emergency structural repairs on Friday, and the cramped venue mitigated the High Line’s ability to show off all of its red-shirted supporters. About half were shuttled down the hall to a cafeteria for what turned out to be a two-hour wait before the rail yards amendments came before the committee, and many had left before chairman Tony Avella ushered in the standing-room only crowd.
Mr. Hammond of Friends of the High Line still considered the rally a success. “For people to come down and wait in two lines and then get up there to testify, I think there was a lot of heartfelt support that came across.”
Copyright The New York Observer
High Line Construction Chronicles: Stairway to Heaven
The first section of the High Line is scheduled to open next month(!), and because what goes up must eventually come down, a tipster relays the above shot of a staircase being added at the park's current northern terminus at 20th Street and Tenth Avenue. In a bit of a throwback, it looks like the High Line people have decided to go with an Erector Set for the building of the stairs. Greeters, don't forget to casually repeat that little fact to any acrophobic visitors.
· High Line Construction Chronicles [Curbed]
I hope they will have several cafés/places for refreshment along the high line.
Very happy and excited for this to open.
High Line park coming on line, facing uncertain economy
Design by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Courtesy of the city of New York
By Jason Fink
Even as the flatlining economy silences construction projects, one of the city’s most unusual and ambitious new developments is set to open next month: The High Line park.
Conceived in flusher times, the park — and its financial patron, the non-profit Friends of the High Line — will face the immediate challenge of raising millions of dollars for upkeep during the worst recession the city has faced in decades.
“It’s definitely difficult,” said Robert Hammond, co-founder of the Friends of the High Line. “(But) Central Park was opened in an economic tough time and has weathered many storms.”
The mile-and-a-half long park, built on a defunct elevated railroad line that cuts the center of the block between 10th and 11th avenues from 34th Street to Gansevoort, is a floating pathway of wild flowers and grass. It’s opening will be the culmination of one of the most pitched battles in the city’s recent land use wars.
“I hope New Yorkers really love it,” said Hammond, whose group fought efforts to tear down the freight tracks during the Giuliani administration.
After several delays, the southern half of the park will open in June. Neither the city nor the Friends will give an opening date, and there is no precise timetable for when the second phase, from 20th to 30th streets, will be ready, though it is expected by next summer. The plan is for the park to feed into the planned Hudson Yards residential community.
Since the final zoning was approved in 2005, 31 development projects have been planned or completed along the high line, according to the city Planning Department, including a satellite of the Whitney Museum, now under construction, and the luxury Standard Hotel, which opened earlier this year.
“It’s a fabulous thing for the neighborhood,” said Ralf Kvettel, manager of the Trestle on Tenth, at 24th Street, a restaurant that changed its name to capitalize on the High Line. “Tenth Avenue on a Sunday evening is a wasteland here and this will bring people in.”
The $170 million construction cost for the park has been taken of, with the city putting up $98 million, the federal government committing $22 million and the Friends of the High Line and others footing the rest of the bill.
However, the city will have to come up with 30 percent of the park’s annual $2 million to $3 million operating budget. And the Friends, which will oversee the 6.7-acre open space, is responsible for the remaining portion.
Hammond would not specify how much his group has already raised but said that they are aggressively working to secure next year’s budget through membership dues and other donations.
If the similarly membership-based Central Park Conservancy is any indication, the Friends could face a drop off in fundraising in 2010 because of the economy.
“(Donors) are meeting their commitments right now but next year they’ve let us know it’s going to be different,” said Douglas Blonksy, president of the conservancy, which is already looking at a 5 to 10 percent dip in revenue this year.
The park will have entrances spaced every two blocks but will offer little in the way of amenities.
Concrete planks will be surrounded by vegetation meant to evoke the natural growth that took over before the train tracks were restored and new drainage put in. There may eventually be food concessions but there will be no dogs, bicycles or rollerblading allowed.
“It’s about meandering,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. “There is nothing like this anywhere in the city.”
Paris has a similar park, the Promenade Plantee, which was also built on an old freight line and is popular with residents and tourists.
While many local business owners and residents say the park will be a boon to south Chelsea and the Meatpacking district, others fear eventually being priced out of the neighborhood.
“It could definitely be a draw, a destination” said Tony Cloer, 43, who lives in the Caledonia at 17th Street, a new condo building which touts its access to the High Line as a selling point.
But for Brian Freeman, 41, of Chelsea, the High Line, in combination with the galleries that have sprouted up in recent years, has only made the area more expensive by speeding up gentrification.
“Not everyone will be able to afford the types of businesses it helps,” he said.
Last edited by ZippyTheChimp; June 1st, 2009 at 10:50 PM. Reason: image too wide
High Line park-in-the-sky chugs toward finish lineThe High Line’s 10th Ave. Square section at 17th St., where an observation deck is under construction.
By Patrick Hedlund
A decade-long local effort to transform a derelict former railway into a public park-in-the-sky will finally be realized next month with the debut of the High Line’s first section in Chelsea.
“To me the most rewarding thing is bringing somebody up there to show it to them for the first time,” said Joshua David, who conceived of the idea with fellow park founder Robert Hammond back in 1999. “I’ve seen it from step to step, but to see it through their eyes—and see how struck they are by it—is how I can feel that incredible sensation.”
The High Line is projected to open sometime in the first two weeks of June, giving park-goers access to the elevated structure’s initial section from Gansevoort to 20th Sts. Early risers and night crawlers will delight in the High Line’s daily operating hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and jaunts down the winding walkway will yield sweeping views of the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline.
Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit organization co-founded by David and Hammond to oversee construction of the park, recently hired Patrick Cullina as its vice president of maintenance and operations after his four-year stint as VP of horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Along with managing the High Line’s myriad plantings, Cullina is tasked with ensuring a quality experience for the throngs of visitors likely to crowd the West Chelsea green space during the warmer months.
“Any successful garden is one where the decisions are formed by your experience,” Cullina said, explaining that the park’s landscape will evolve as the plantings mature, helping to dictate future decisions on the High Line. “Each season has its lesson to teach, and we’re going to gather those lessons as we go.”
While the project will benefit from its partnership with the city Parks Department, which will provide some enforcement staff at the park, nearly all the labor required to maintain the High Line on a daily basis will fall on the Friends. Depending on the season, a staff of about 15 to 20—including gardeners, groundskeepers, custodians and mechanical maintainers—will tend to the park and its infrastructure, while volunteer “greeters” will help answer visitors’ questions about its features.
One challenge for horticulturalists will be balancing the park’s multiple plant varieties atop the former viaduct, which is “essentially the city’s largest green roof,” Cullina said. Shallow soil depths, sunlight and wind exposure will all affect the High Line’s “microclimates,” he added, which “change literally from block to block.”
“A lot of this will have to unfold over time,” Cullina acknowledged. “Our ultimate aspiration is to have a consistently compelling landscape. It progresses from the time you enter to the time you exit.”
But park-goers will have to contend with “a very different kind of public landscape environment than anything anyone’s ever experienced,” Cullina said, referring to the sometimes-dubious delineations between the High Line’s pathways and green spaces.
“There aren’t these really clear-cut definitions of where the plants are,” he noted. “Over time the plantings will become so dense and thick that it will become clear.”
All in all, the park will provide a study in transition as the flowers, shrubs and trees mature through the months. “You see it once,” Cullina said, “that’s not the end of the show.”
Aside from its organic growth, the High Line’s appearance will be also enhanced by a “subdued lighting that goes the whole length of the line at night,” as well as daily cleaning by staff, Cullina added.
Both bicycles and pets are prohibited at the park, but bike racks will be available at the entrances. Residential buildings near the former railway will not enjoy private access points to the High Line, which will have “no connectivity unless it serves the public first and foremost,” David said.
Ironically, the park’s popularity as a public realm could create problems, as initial overcrowding is a chief concern of the Friends.
“We want everybody to come to the High Line,” David said, acknowledging that the hype surrounding the project has grown to near-mythic proportions. “But we don’t encourage everybody to come the very minute it opens. It’ll be beautiful on day two and day three, on week two and week three.”
However, the High Line’s biggest challenge will be the park’s ability to grow some green—and David isn’t talking plantings.
“Friends of the High Line’s budget basically doubles when the ribbon cuts,” he explained, noting that the opening comes at a time when most nonprofits are slashing budgets. “Our biggest challenge is taking all the excitement that’s out there about the High Line and making sure that people understand we still need people’s support.”
Cullina views the undertaking not only as a singular achievement for New York City, but an idea to build upon for future urban planning.
“As much impact as this project will have, [the Friends’] example and partnership with city will also be something that people will look it,” he said. “It’s always inspiring to see the reaction of folks. It’s sort of a vehicle for excitement, and I think that’s great.”
A couple of local angels who love the High Line continue to put their money where their mouths are ...
$10 Million Gift for High Line Project
By ROBIN POGREBIN
JUNE 1, 2009
Design by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Courtesy of the City of New York. The High Line, a defunct railway that runs above Manhattan, is being transformed into a public park.
The media mogul Barry Diller and the fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg have made a $10 million challenge grant to the High Line, the former elevated railway along the Hudson River that is being converted into a landscaped walkway. “I fell in love with the project, with the place,” Ms. Von Furstenberg said in a telephone interview. “It’s a beautiful green ribbon that will travel from Gansevoort to the Javits Center.”
The donation ranks among the four largest ever given by individuals to New York City parks, said the parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe. “There’s something about New York and parks that brings out extraordinary generosity,” he said.
The gift, which was to be announced at an event on the High Line on Monday night, brings the fundraising to $34 million in a $50 million capital campaign. It will be allotted in $2 million annual increments over five years with Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group that manages the project, required to match each installment.
The first phase of the High Line, which runs from Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district to 20th Street, is due to open some time this month. The meandering path 30 feet above the street — with plantings and water areas designed by Field Operations, a landscape architecture company, and Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the architectural firm — will ultimately extend all the way to 34th Street.
Under an operating agreement modeled on the Central Park Conservancy’s and signed last week, the Friends of the High Line will cover operating costs, which are expected to be $2 million to $4 million a year. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will provide security.
This marks the second major donation to the High Line from Mr. Diller and Ms. Von Furstenberg, who provided a $5 million gift in 2005. Both have offices near the High Line, Ms. Von Furstenberg on 14th Street and Mr. Diller’s IAC headquarters at 18th Street. “They were involved in supporting the High Line from the beginning,” said Joshua David, a co-founder of Friends of the High Line.
The total cost of the walkway’s first section is $86.2 million, Mr. David said, and the second phase — which extends to 30th Street — is expected to cost $66 million. The budget for the third section, which wraps around Hudson Yards, has yet to be determined.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
I can't believe the High line will close each night at 10:00 pm
From Friends of the High Line email:
Section 1 of the High Line to Open Tuesday, June 9
After ten years of advocacy, planning, and construction, the High Line is opening. Section 1 of the High Line (from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street) will open Tuesday, June 9, offering visitors the chance to preview the park, which is still under construction. Friends of the High Line thanks all the community partners, donors, volunteers, members, elected officials, and other supporters who've made this historic day possible.
Please note that access to the High Line will be limited during June. To ensure public safety during the first days and weeks that the High Line is open, visitors on the High Line will flow from south to north. Please plan on entering the park at the Gansevoort Street access point, unless you are in need of an elevator. Elevator service is available at 16th Street, with another elevator opening in July at 14th Street. You may exit the park at any of the access points (Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 18th, and 20th Streets).
The High Line as a whole is still a construction site: Section 2, from 20th Street to 30th Street, is just entering its landscape construction phase. We ask that all visitors in this inaugural season observe a few guidelines, so the park can be enjoyed by all.
High Line Hours and Rules
The High Line will be open daily from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. We encourage you, if possible, to visit the High Line at times of anticipated slower use, such as early mornings and weekdays.
Regular New York City Parks rules apply for the High Line. Because of space limitations on the High Line, and the fragility of the new park landscape, we need your help. Please stay on the pathways and keep off the gravel. Though the gravel looks like a walking surface, walking on it will damage the new plants. Dogs are currently not allowed on the High Line due to the limited area of the pathways and the fragility of the new plantings.
Visit our Web site for a complete list of park rules.
Maybe I've said this before, the pathways look too narrow.
The elevated platform itself is narrow -- it only carried two sets of tracks. What they've created is perfect for strolling an ambling about.
Baby carriages might create a log jam (they're to be allowed although no other non-essential wheeled vehicles -- bikes, skateboards, rollerskates. blades -- will be). And no doggies or other pets can be brought up.
I was up there late today ... it's really great (especially when the workers have cleared out and there's hardly anybody up there). The plantings (most less than a year old) are really doing well. In two to three years it will be fantastic. The design really allows the plants to go wild and overtake the space.
However, it's going to take a lot of interaction between the HL folks and visitors to make sure that things don't get trampled. People are just naturally going to want to walk everywhere and do the old balancing-on-the-train-tracks-trick-but-oops-I-just -fell-off! The flora growing between the tracks just won't take the punishment.
That's what I mean. Did they make this for the plants or the people?
Both. The inspiration for the HL was the fact that plants had overtaken the rail lines and that people should be able to see and experience that, rather than tear it down.
It's not a typical park by any means. And there was no feasible way (for numerous reasons, from city codes to plant sustainability) to let it remain in in its raw state.