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How the High Line Park Came to Be
New York City’s High Line Park was built on an abandoned elevated freight railroad line that runs along the far west side of lower Manhattan from West 30th Street to just below West 12th Street, offering incredible elevated views of the city’s urban landscape. The initial southern section of the park, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened to the public on June 8, 2009.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on June 7, 2011 that marked the opening a second section (northern section) of the park from West 20th Street to West 30th Street. The park is the realization of local resident’s vision of turning a dilapidated elevated railroad into an urban greenway.
The opening of the second section of the High Line Park brings the park organizers and designers closer to fulfilling their vision. One section remains to be opened at the far northern end of the park but will have to await redevelopment of the area in which the final segment of the park is proposed.
Local Residents' Vision Turns Into Popular Urban Park
New York City’s High Line Park is a city park that was built on a 1.45-mile section of a former elevated freight railroad, known as the West Side Line, that served the formerly bustling manufacturing and meatpacking industries that were located in Manhattan’s lower west side. After the last freight train ran along the West Side Line in 1980, the elevated rail line, informally known by local residents as the High Line, lay abandoned for decades. It was left to rust and grow weeds until a non-profit group called Friends of the High Line, which now runs the park that took its name, turned things around.
In 1999, Friends of the High Line was formed by local residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond. They formed the group to lobby for the preservation of the High Line and its reuse as a public park or open space. Their initial efforts resulted in broadened community support for redevelopment of the High Line for pedestrian use, and funding was allocated by New York City in 2004 to move forward with the idea of turning the abandoned rail line into a public park or open space.
The vision of Mr. David and Mr. Hammond was realized when New York City’s High Line Park was opened as a New York City park on June 8, 2009. New York City owns the property and invested $112.2 million of the $153 million to build the park, with the remaining amount coming from private donations to Friends of the High Line.
The Park Revitalizes New York City Neighborhoods
While the impact that New York City’s High Line Park has had on the lower west side Manhattan communities in which it is located is difficult to measure, it appears that overall the park has been a positive force for redevelopment and economic activity.
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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that the park has generated $2 billion in private investment in the communities that host the park. The park has also brought hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists each year into areas of the lower west side Manhattan that until recently were shunned, which has been a boon to local businesses and has even lead to the opening of new businesses to cater to visitors to the park.
New York City’s High Line Park is an elevated urban rail-trail that overlooks the Meatpacking District and the neighborhood of Chelsea on Manhattan’s lower west side. The park offers spectacular views of both the Hudson River and portions of the Manhattan skyline. The creators of the park designed it to contain a great deal of vegetation along either side of a broad walkway, using wild plants that had colonized the abandoned railway, which gives the park the appearance of an urban garden.
At its northern end, the park currently terminates at West 30th Street, near Pennsylvania Station (Penn Station), just south of the West Side Yard (passenger train rail storage area). At its southern end, the park currently terminates at Gansevoort Street, near the western part of Greenwich Village. Further extension south is not likely because the southern section of the West Side Line was torn down in the 1960s.
There are plans to extend the park further north along an abandoned section of elevated track that runs west along West 30th Street and then turns north along 12th Avenue to West 34th Street, just south of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Plans for the northern extension are in limbo, as Friends of the High Line wait to see what happens to the redevelopment plans that are in the works for West Side Yard and whether a High Line Park extension can be accommodated in the redevelopment plans.
In a city that desperately needs open space for its millions of residents and visitors, New York City’s High Line Park is a breath of fresh air. It not only serves as an urban park, but it also offers incredible elevated views of the west side of Manhattan. The park is a good example of how a community eyesore can be turned into a community asset.
Northern Segment of High Line Park
The third and final section of the High Line Park, Known as the High Line at the Rail Yards, opened in September 2014. This final section runs along the west side of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project to a northern terminus at 11th Avenue and 34th Street.
The northern section of the park is built along the route of the abandoned elevated railway and is integrated with the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project to provide a seamless path through the development to the existing sections of the High Line Park.
- The High Line
The official Web site of the High Line and Friends of the High Line
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 John Coviello