High Line (New York City)

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High Line Park
High Line 20th Street looking downtown.jpg
The High Line at 20th Street, looking downtown, an aerial greenway. 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
Typeelevated urban linear park
LocationManhattan, New York City
Area1 mile (1.6 km)[1] open of 1.45-mile (2.33 km)[2] planned total
Created2009 (2009)
Operated byNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation
StatusOpen, and expansion under construction.
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High Line Park
High Line 20th Street looking downtown.jpg
The High Line at 20th Street, looking downtown, an aerial greenway. 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
Typeelevated urban linear park
LocationManhattan, New York City
Area1 mile (1.6 km)[1] open of 1.45-mile (2.33 km)[2] planned total
Created2009 (2009)
Operated byNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation
StatusOpen, and expansion under construction.

The High Line 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 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 (4.8-kilometer) 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 Spring Street just north of Canal Street, but the lower section was demolished in 1960.[3]

The recycling of the railway into an urban park has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods which lie along the line.[4]

History of railroad 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.[5] Yet so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that Tenth Avenue became known as "Death Avenue".[6]

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.

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.[5]

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 roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets.[5] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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,[9] 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.[5]

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.[5] 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.[10]

Reconstructed tracks at 20th Street
The High Line 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 runs under the Standard Hotel
Urban theater at 10th Avenue and 17th Street: a window over the avenue provides unusual views


In 1999, the non-profit Friends of the High Line[5] 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. 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. 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,[11] and engineering design by Buro Happold.[12] Major backers have included Philip Falcone and Diane von Fürstenberg, her husband Barry Diller, and her children Alexander von Fürstenberg and Tatiana von Fürstenberg.[13] 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.[14]

The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009.[15] This southern section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street.[16]

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.[1][17][18][19]

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,[13] 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.[20] Construction on the final section was started in September 2012;[21] the third and final phase will open in Fall 2014.[22][23] The third phase, costing US$76 million, will contain such amenities as a bowl-shaped theater (which will not be completed until a few years after the High Line is complete).[24][25][24] It will also be integrated with 10 Hudson Yards,[26] which has already been built over the High Line Spur as of December 2013.[27]


The park extends from Gansevoort Street north to 30th Street where the elevated tracks turn west around the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project[28] to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on 34th Street, though the northern section is expected to be integrated within the Hudson Yards development[29] and the Hudson Park and Boulevard. 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.[30]

The park's attractions include naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks[31] 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.[32] 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.[33]

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. 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.[34] 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.[35]


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

The recycling of the railway into an urban park has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line.[4] 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.[15] 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.[36]

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. 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."[37]

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.[38]

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."[39]

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.[40] 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.[40] 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.[40][40]

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. 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.[41][42]

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.[43]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "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. ^ "The High Line" on NYC Architecture
  4. ^ a b Gregor, Alison (August 10, 2010). "As a Park Runs Above, Deals Stir Below". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "High Line History". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  6. ^ 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.'" 
  7. ^ "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." 
  8. ^ Gray, Christopher (May 18, 2008). "As High Line Park Rises, a Time Capsule Remains". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  9. ^ "West Side Line & Selkurk Hurdle" (map)
  10. ^ Goldberger, Paul (2012-05-15). "Miracle Above Manhattan". National Geographic. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  11. ^ "The Business of The High Line". Inc. October 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  12. ^ Buro Happold. "High Line". Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Ouroussoff, Nicolai (April 8, 2009). "Industrial Sleek (a Park Runs Through It)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  15. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (June 8, 2009). "First Phase of High Line Is Ready for Strolling". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  16. ^ Friends of the High Line—High Line Map
  17. ^ Marritz, Ilya (June 7, 2011). "As the High Line Grows, Business Falls in Love with a Public Park". WNYC. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  18. ^ Browne, Alex (June 7, 2011). "High Notes - New Art on the High Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Keith, Kelsey. "Third Section of High Line Is On The Docket, On Google Maps", Curbed (November 1, 2011)
  21. ^ Katz, Mathew (September 20, 2012). "High Line Begins Construction On Third And Final Section (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  22. ^ Battaglia, Andy. "Artist's 'Ruins' Rise on the High Line - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  23. ^ "High Line at the Rail Yards | Friends of the High Line". Thehighline.org. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ "High Line Park will be capped with a giant bowl theater". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  26. ^ 10 Hudson Yards fact sheet
  27. ^ Fedak, Nikolai (December 13, 2013). "Construction Update: 10 Hudson Yards". New York YIMBY. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  28. ^ Topousis, Tom (December 8, 2006). "Rail Shot at Prosperity". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  29. ^ "10 Hudson Yards Building Plan | Hudson Yards". Hudsonyardsnewyork.com. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  30. ^ "Park Information". Friends of the High Line. June 8, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  31. ^ "Planting Design". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  32. ^ Berens, Carol (July 5, 2010). "The High Line". UrbDeZine. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  33. ^ "Wood on the High Line". Friends of the High Line. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  34. ^ Vogel, Carol (May 21, 2009). "Seeing the Hudson River Through 700 Windows". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  35. ^ Dobrzynski, Judith H. (May 21, 2009). "Taking the High Line: the art park that rivals MoMA". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  36. ^ Moss, Jeremiah (August 21, 2012), "Disney World on the Hudson", New York Times, retrieved 2012-08-22 
  37. ^ Wilson, Michael (June 10, 2011). "The Park Is Elevated. Its Crime Rate Is Anything But.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  38. ^ Kurutz, Steven. Close Quarters. The New York Times, 2012, p. D1.
  39. ^ Levy, Ariel (August 8, 2011). "Tables for Two: The Highliner". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ Vogel, Carol (October 25, 2006). "Dia Art Foundation Calls Off Museum Project". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  42. ^ Whitney Museum New Building Project
  43. ^ Friends of the QueensWay
  44. ^ Sternfeld, Joel; Stilgoe, John R.; Gopnik, Adam (2001). Walking the High Line. New York: Steidl/Pace/MacGill Gallery. ISBN 978-3-88243-726-3. 
  45. ^ "Rap Genius: Lyrics and Explanations for the Kinetics & One Love song "The High Line"". 


External links[edit]