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High Line Redevelopment

In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond organized the Friends of the High Line to lobby against the impending demolition of the High Line, a striking remnant of Manhattan’s industrial past that snakes along the West Side of Manhattan. The former elevated railway - which was constructed in the 1930s by the New York Central Railroad and abandoned in 1980 - was built to move railroad freight tracks above street level and originally stretched from Spring Street to 34th Street. However, the southern most section, up to the Meatpacking District, was demolished in the 1960s. Though gathering support from Mayor Bloomberg in 2001 was crucial, the preservation effort by the Friends of the High Line did not gain widespread recognition until 2002, when City Council officially advocated for the abandoned railway's reuse. The structure, which consists of a steel frame and a concrete platform 18 to 30 feet above street level, was donated by the CSX Transportation up to 30th Street for use as parkland in 2005.

When completed, the elevated park will be 1.5 miles, running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to W. 34th Street. The High Line will be built in phases, with Section 1 extending from Gansevoort to 20th Street and Section 2 extending from 20th to 30th Streets. $130 million from the City and $20 million from federal sources have been appropriated for the project, with the rest generated from private sources.

In October 2009, City Planning Commissioner, Amanda Burden, announced that the the Department of City Planning would conduct a public-review process that would ultimately enable the City to take ownership of the remaining segment of the High Line from 30th to 34 Streets. The section, which consists of a "loop" and a "spur", was not transferred to the City's Park Department with the rest of the structure in 2005. Under the slogan "Save the High Line at the Rail Yards," Friends of the High Line are urging the City to take control of the most northern section. The section is currently owned by CSX and runs through the Hudson Railyards. The Hudson Railyards will be developed by a private group, The Related Companies. Related has included the High Line in their plans, however, the company has been talking mainly about the "loop" (which hooks around the Railyards) and may not be committed to protecting the "spur". The West Side rezoning that is key to the Hudson Railyards development does not include protections for the High Line section. High Line advocates worry that uncertainty surrounding Hudson Railyards development and a lack of legally-binding protection for the northern section threatens completion of the High Line.

The first section of the High Line opened to the public in June 2009, at a total cost of $172 million dollars. More than 300,000 visited within the first six weeks. James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the park, and Piet Oudolf, a Dutch horticulturist who created the plantings at Battery Park, designed the landscape to resemble the wild flowers and grasses that have been wind-sewn on the High Line since its closure. Though Gansevoort Plaza in the Meatpacking District is the main entrance at the southern end, access points with stairs and elevators are on 14th Street and 16th Street at 10th Avenue and stairs-only access is at 18th and 20th Streets. Some buildings have private access points onto the High Line, including The Caledonia. Others, such as the new Standard Hotel and the High Line Building, straddle the elevated park.

Though the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation provides security for the High Line and maintains its structures and accessibility, Friends of the High Line (FHL) manage day-to-day operations, which are estimated to cost between $3.5 and $4.5 million annually. A proposal to create a Business Improvement District in the area has been withdrawn.

The High Line is credited with bringing new development to the neighborhood. By the end of 2008, there were already 1.5 million square feet of living spaces, offices, and hotels under construction, with an additional 2.5 million square feet in the planning stages. Several world renowned architects have designed buildings around the High Line, including Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Robert A. M. Stern, Shigeru Ban, Renzo Piano, and Annabelle Selldorf. This rising cluster of buildings by design powerhouses promises to transform the High Line into a significant landmark. New York City officials expect High Line Park to bring the City $900 million in revenue over the next 30 years and spur $4 billion in private investment. Despite high ambitions, development around the High Line has not been immune to the economic downturn and credit crisis, with cost increases causing some construction delays and anxiety in investors. However, many condo units have been pre-sold and developers are reporting success in refinancing construction loans. Interest in real estate and attendance at restaurants near the High Line have both significantly increased since the park's opening.

The second section of the High Line is expected to open spring 2011.

Last Updated: June 14, 2010