Earlier this summer, New York City saw the opening of the second part of the High Line, an elevated park on Manhattan’s West Side that, since 2009, has been dazzling New Yorkers and visitors alike. With the new section now open, the park now stretches over 1-mile from the Meatpacking District and winds its way through West Chelsea to just below Penn Station. As a park, it has helped bring new life into the neighborhoods it serves directly, and has helped spur a wave of new construction and development for the lower West Side of Manhattan (most notably, the now iconic Standard Hotel, which straddles the High Line near its southern end).
But the High Line itself is more than just another park; it represents the collaboration that occurred between public and private enterprises, as well as many of New York’s movers and shakers, to help salvage an eyesore and turn it into something wonderful. After being officially discontinued in 1980, the structure was set to be demolished, but a revived interest in the property in the late 1990’s saw the potential for urban reuse and beautification through the formation of Friends of the High Line. Through an international design competition that invited architects, landscape architects, and urban designers to re-imagine the space, the High Line was eventually transformed from a derelict overpass into a lively urban park complete with art installations, sweeping vistas, and some of the city’s best people watching.
Moreover, the High Line, in its original and now extended form, has brought numerous benefits, both economic and social, to the local neighborhood and to the city itself. An initial estimate in 2009 stated that the park would “bring $4 billion in private investment and over $900 million in revenues to the city” for the next 30 years. On the cusp of the original segment’s completion, Amanda Burden (Commissioner of the NYC Department of City Planning) noted, “Since rezoning … there have been 31 new projects set for development.” Many of those predictions have come true. Property values in the immediate area have risen, many new and old firms have relocated to West Chelsea, and tourists now flock by the dozen to visit the “park in the sky.” Additional elements to the new section, including sound art, and The Lot have brought even more life to the High Line, including mobile restaurants, parties, and of course, the patrons that keep them in business.
This is one part of a two part series. In my next article on this topic, I’ll look at how the High Line has helped other cities re-think how to use decaying infrastructure for public benefit.