Track Park Plan Derailed
Rudy signed pact to abandon old West Side rail line
By FRANK LOMBARDI
Daily News City Hall Bureau
A few days before Mayor Rudy Giuliani left office, his administration dealt a possible death blow to the High Line — the ghostly elevated freight line on the West Side.
On Dec. 20, the city quietly executed an agreement for voluntary abandonment of the unused old railroad line that runs from 12th to 34th Sts., west of 10th Ave.
In effect, the city consented to the demolition of the 1.4-mile line, which opened in 1933 to serve meat and grocery wholesalers that once dominated the area. It was closed down in 1980, and has been a source of debate ever since.
An alliance of elected officials and preservationists have been fighting to preserve the High Line, aiming to turn it into a showcase-elevated promenade and park. The project would be funded with federal rail-banking funds, they say.
Patterned After Paris
Their inspiration is a similar eyesore rail line in Paris that since 1988 was transformed into the Promenade Plantee and helped spur other development along its route.
Called Friends of the High Line, its champions decried the Giuliani administration's action but refuse to give up.
"We thought it was appalling," said Robert Hammond, co-founder of the group. "What's all the hurry to sign a demolition order?"
Hammond and his allies are pursuing legal and political action to thwart demolition and the surrender of the valuable right of way to adjoining property owners.
On the political front, they hope Mayor Bloomberg and the new speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, will follow through on support they voiced last year.
Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, Daniel Doctoroff, is to meet tomorrow with officials of the city's Economic Development Corp., which signed the demolition agreement.
Aide Seeks Out Both Sides
Doctoroff will then meet separately with Friends of the High Line.
Doctoroff will conduct a thorough analysis and make a recommendation to the mayor, said deputy press secretary Jennifer Falk.
Miller (D-upper East Side) said he still strongly supports the preservation effort.
"I love the High Line," Miller said.
Hammond is also optimistic that a Manhattan judge will rule favorably on a suit brought by Friends of the High Line, contending demolition must go through the city's intricate land-use process.
Property owners who stand to gain from the High Line's demolition are represented by Randy Mastro, who resigned as Giuliani's top deputy mayor in 1998.
He blasted the High Line yesterday as "a public menace and danger to anyone who has to travel underneath it."
Original Publication Date: 1/24/02
The view of the High Line from Chelsea gallery window on 19 January 2002.