Charles Harvey demonstrating his elevated railroad design on Greenwich Street in 1867, source
In the 1930s and 1940s, New York’s elevated High Line ran between factories and warehouses delivering milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods without creating congestion on the streets below. Rather than run above the streets of the businesses it serviced, the High Line ran through buildings, which was the city’s attempt to “avoid creating the negative conditions associated with elevated subways.”
In 1980, the last train ran on the High Line pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys. In the mid-1980s, area property owners began lobbying for the High Line’s demolition, which was met by resistance from Peter Obletz, “a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast”. In 1999, Friends of the High Line was founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, both residents of the High Line neighborhood, “to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space.” It wasn’t until 2002 that they finally got an NYC City Council resolution advocating the High Line’s reuse, and in January 2003 competition opened to design the High Line’s second life as a public space. You can still view the entries that were submitted by 720 teams from 36 countries, here.
Groundbreaking was in April 2006, and the first section was completed in 2009.
Yesterday, Kev and I entered the park at West 30th Street, and we walked its entire length. What we found was a utopia above street level; we were amazed by the variety of trees, art, flowers and plants …
What we discovered was an almost magical place thanks to the amount of greenery and beautiful landscaping coupled wonderfully usable spaces for people to enjoy. It gave us a new perspective for what was happening on the ground below.
The High Line the perfect juxtaposition of old and new; it is civic repurposing at its best.