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The newly opened High Line in June 2009, between 14th and 15th streets
Main line (overhead) and the two sidings at Chelsea Market
The High Line is a New York City park built on a section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattanmarker. The High Line park will eventually run from the former 34th Street freightyard, near the Javits Convention Centermarker, through the neighborhood of Chelseamarker to Gansevoort Street (one block below West 12th Street) in the Meat Packing Districtmarker of the West Villagemarker. The High Line was built in the early 1930s by the New York Central Railroad to eliminate the fatal accidents that occurred along the street-level right-of-way and to offer direct warehouse-to-freight car service that reduced pilferage for the Bell Laboratories Buildingmarker (now the Westbeth Artists Community) and the Nabisco plant (now Chelsea Marketmarker), which were served from protected sidings within the structures (illustration, right). It was in active use until 1980.

In the 1990s, it became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs, and trees that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway.

In 1999, the non-profit Friends of the High Line was formed. Broadened community support of public redevelopment for the High Line for pedestrian use grew, and City funding was allocated in 2004. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Council Speakers Gifford Miller and Christine C. Quinn were important supporters. The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009. The middle section is still being refurbished, while the northernmost section's future remains uncertain, depending on a development project currently underway at the Hudson Yardsmarker.

Southern terminus of the High Line as it appeared before renovation above a meatpacking business on Washington and Gansevoort Streets


Before it was turned into a park, the line was in disrepair, although the riveted steel elevated structure was basically sound. Wild grasses, plants, shrubs, and rugged trees such as sumac grew along most of the route. It was slated for demolition under the administration of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

In 1999, neighborhood residents Robert Hammond and Joshua David created the community group Friends of the High Line to push the idea of turning the High Line into an elevated park or greenway, similar to the Promenade Plantéemarker in Parismarker.
The inspiration: an unreconstructed section
The Standard Hotel
In 2004, the New York Citymarker government committed $50 million to establish the proposed park. 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 Michael Bloomberg presided over a ceremony that marked the beginning of construction. The park is designed by the New York-based landscape firm of James Corner Field Operations, and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with planting design from Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands and engineering design by Buro Happold. Major backers have included Diane von Furstenberg 8her husband Barry Diller and their children Alexander von Furstenberg and Tatiana von Furstenberg, and Philip Falcone. Hotel developer Andre Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmontmarker in Los Angelesmarker, built the 337-room Standard Hotel straddling the High Line at West 13th Street.The southern section of the High Line park, running from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened to the public on June 8, 2009. This southern section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street.
The park welcomes visitors with naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and with 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. 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. Ipe timber for the built-in benches has come from a managed forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, to ensure sustainable use, conservation of biological diversity, water resources, and fragile ecosystems.

The park will eventually extend from Gansevoort Street north to 30th Street where the elevated tracks turn west around the Hudson Yardsmarker development project to the Javits Convention Centermarker on 34th Street. The northernmost section, from 30th to 34th Streets, is still owned by the CSX railroad company, but the New York City Planning Commission has announced a move toward City ownership of this section.

Major Bloomberg noted that the High Line project has helped usher in something of a renaissance in the neighborhood: by 2009, more than 30 projects are planned or under construction nearby.

Museum site

The Dia Art Foundation considered but rejected a proposal to build a museum at the Gansevoort Street terminus. The Whitney Museummarker plans to build on the site, to a design by Renzo Piano, instead of expanding its building uptown.

In literature

In Walking the High Line (ISBN 978-3882437263), 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.

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.

See also


  1. Chelsea Market: history: "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."

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