The High Line at West 20th Street, looking south. The vegetation was chosen to acknowledge the wild plants which had colonized the abandoned railway before it was repurposed.
|Type||Elevated urban linear park; public park|
|Location||Manhattan, New York City|
|Area||A linear 1.45-mile (2.33 km) stretch of viaduct|
|Operated by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
|Visitors||5 million (2014)|
|Public transit access||New York City Subway:|
34th St-Hudson Yards ( trains) at park's north end
14th Street-Eighth Avenue ( trains) near park's south end
New York City Bus: M11, M12, M14A, M14D, M23 SBS, M34 SBS at various places
The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. The High Line's design is a collaboration between James Corner Field Operations (Project Lead), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf. The abandoned spur has been redesigned as a "living system" drawing from multiple disciplines which include landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology. Since opening in 2009, the High Line has become an icon of contemporary landscape architecture.
The park is built on a disused, southern viaduct section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line. Originating in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the park runs from Gansevoort Street - three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District - through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center. The West Side Line formerly extended south to a railroad terminal at Spring Street, just north of Canal Street, and north to 35th Street at the site of the Javits Center. Most of the viaduct's southern section was demolished in 1960, and the section north of 34th Street was demolished and reconfigured in 1981. Another small portion from Bank to Gansevoort Streets was demolished in 1991. The High Line was inspired by the 3-mile-long (4.8 km) Promenade plantée (tree-lined walkway), a similar project in Paris which was completed in 1993.
Because of declining usage, the railway viaduct was effectively abandoned in 1980. Repurposing the railway into an urban park began in 2006, with the first phase opening in 2009 and the second phase opening in 2011. The third and final phase opened to the public on September 21, 2014. A short stub above Tenth Avenue and 30th Street was delayed for several years before finally opening on June 4, 2019.
The High Line's success has inspired cities throughout the United States to redevelop obsolete infrastructure as public space. The project has spurred real estate development in adjacent neighborhoods, increasing real-estate values and prices along the route in an example of the halo effect. As of September 2014, the park had nearly five million visitors annually.
The park extends from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. At 30th Street the elevated tracks turn west around the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on 34th Street, although the northern section is expected to be integrated with the Hudson Yards development and the Hudson Park and Boulevard. When the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project's Western Rail Yard is finished in 2018 it will be elevated above the High Line Park, so an exit along the viaduct over the West Side Yard will lead to the Western Rail Yard. The 34th Street entrance is at grade, with wheelchair access.
The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter, until 10 p.m. in spring and fall, and until 11 p.m. in summer (except for the Interim Walkway west of 11th Avenue, which is open until dusk). It can be reached through eleven entrances, five of which are accessible to people with disabilities. The wheelchair-accessible entrances, each with stairs and an elevator, are at Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th Streets. Additional staircase-only entrances are located at 18th, 20th, 26th, and 28th Streets, and 11th Avenue. Street-level access is available at 34th Street via the Interim Walkway, which runs from 30th Street and 11th Avenue to 34th Street west of 11th Avenue.
At the Gansevoort Street end (which runs north-south), the stub over Gansevoort Street is named the Tiffany and Co. Foundation Overlook and was dedicated in July 2012; the foundation was a major supporter of the park. The route then passes under The Standard, High Line hotel and through a passage at 14th Street. At 14th Street, the High Line splits into two sides at different elevations; the Diller-Von Furstenberg Water Feature (opened in 2010) is on the lower side, and a sundeck is on the upper side.
The route passes under the Chelsea Market, a food hall, at 15th Street. A spur, connecting the viaduct to the National Biscuit Company building and closed to the public, splits off at 16th Street. The Tenth Avenue Square, an amphitheater on the viaduct, is at 17th Street where the High Line crosses over Tenth Avenue from southeast to northwest. At the 23rd Street Lawn, visitors can rest. Between 25th and 26th Streets a ramp takes visitors above the viaduct, with a scenic overlook facing east at 26th Street. The Philip Falcone and Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover, named after two major donors to the park, was based on plans for a Phase 1 flyover which was never built.
The park then curves west to Phase 3 and merges into the Tenth Avenue Spur, which stretches over 30th Street to Tenth Avenue. The Tenth Avenue Spur is composed of three parts: the Coach Passage, with 60-foot-tall (18 m) ceilings; the High Line's largest planted garden; and a plaza with temporary art exhibitions that get replaced every 18 months. Phase 3 has another ramp taking visitors above the viaduct at 11th Avenue and a play area with rail ties and the Pershing Beams (modified, silicone-covered beams and stanchions coming out of the structure), a gathering space with benches, and a set of three railroad tracks where one can walk between the rails. The play area also has a seesaw-like bench and a "chime bench", with keys which make sounds when tapped. The Interim Walkway, from 11th Avenue and 30th Street to 34th Street divides the viaduct into two sides: a gravel walkway and an undeveloped section with rail tracks. The temporary walkway will close for renovation when the Tenth Avenue Spur is completed. The High Line turns north to a point just east of Twelfth Avenue. At 34th Street it curves east and descends, ending at street level midway between 12th and 11th Avenues.
The park's attractions include naturalized plantings, inspired by plants which grew on the disused tracks, and views of the city and the Hudson River. The pebble-dash concrete walkways swell and constrict, swing from side to side, and divide into concrete tines which meld the hardscape with plantings embedded in railroad-gravel mulch. "By opening the paving, we allow the plants to bleed through," said landscape architect James Corner, "almost as if the plants were colonizing the paved areas. There's a sort of blending or bleeding or suturing between the hard paving, the surface for people to stroll on, and the planting ... " Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line's former use, and portions of track are re-used for rolling lounges positioned for river views. The 120-species plant palette, curated by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, includes sturdy meadow plants (such as clump-forming grasses, liatris, and coneflowers) and scattered stands of sumac and smokebush and is not limited to native plants. At the Gansevoort Street end, a grove of mixed species of birch provides shade by late afternoon. Ipê timber for the built-in benches came from a managed forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure sustainability and the conservation of biological diversity, water resources, and fragile ecosystems. According to James Corner Field Operations, the High Line's design "is characterized by an intimate choreography of movement."
The High Line also has cultural attractions as part of a long-term plan for the park to host temporary installations and performances. Creative Time, Friends of the High Line, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation commissioned The River That Flows Both Ways by Spencer Finch as the inaugural art installation. The work is integrated into the window bays of the former Nabisco factory loading dock as a series of 700 purple and gray glass panes. Each color is calibrated to match the center pixel of 700 digital pictures (one taken every minute) of the Hudson River, making up an extended portrait of the river. Creative Time worked with Finch to realize his site-specific concept after he saw the rusted, disused mullions of the old factory, with metal-and-glass specialists Jaroff Design helping to prepare and reinstall.
A summer 2010 sound installation by Stephen Vitiello was composed from bells heard throughout New York. Lauren Ross, former director of the alternative art space White Columns, was the High Line's first curator. During the construction of the second phase (between 20th and 30th Streets) several artworks were installed, including Sarah Sze's Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat): a steel-and-wood sculpture near 20th and 21st Streets built as a house for fauna such as birds and butterflies. Kim Beck's Space Available was installed on the roofs of three buildings visible from the southern end. Three 20-by-12-foot (6.1 by 3.7 m) sculptures, resembling the armature of empty billboards and constructed like theater backdrops, looks three-dimensional from a distance. Also installed during the second phase of construction was Julianne Swartz's Digital Empathy, a work utilizing audio messages at restrooms, elevators, and water fountains. In 2012-13 the Ghanaian born Nigerian artist El Anatsui's large scale sculpture "Broken Bridge ll" (at the time his largest work to date) fashioned from recycled pressed tin and broken mirrors was positioned on a wall on the west side of the street between West 21st and West 22nd street facing and sidelining the High Line. In 2016 Tony Matelli's controversial sculpture "Sleepwalker" was exhibited upon the High Line. In 2017 Max Hooper Schneider's aquarium was displayed on the passageway. In 2018 the High Line hosted the British sculptor Phyllida Barlow's first public commission "Prop" which has been described as a concrete colossus.
In 1847, the City of New York authorized the construction of railroad tracks along Tenth and Eleventh Avenues on Manhattan's West Side. The street-level tracks were used by the New York Central Railroad's freight trains, which shipped commodities such as coal, dairy products and beef. For safety the railroad hired "West Side cowboys", men who rode horses and waved flags in front of the trains. However, so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that the nickname "Death Avenue" was given to Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. In 1910, one organization estimated that there had been 548 deaths and 1,574 injuries over the years along Eleventh Avenue.
Public debate about the hazard began during the early 1900s. In 1929 the city, the state, and New York Central agreed on the West Side Improvement Project, conceived by Robert Moses. The 13-mile (21 km) project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings and added 32 acres (13 ha) to Riverside Park; it also included construction of the West Side Elevated Highway. It cost more than $150 million, worth about $2.19 billion in 2018 dollars. The last stretch of street-level track was removed from Eleventh Avenue in 1941.
The first train on the High Line viaduct, part of New York Central's West Side Line, ran along the structure in 1933. The elevated structure was dedicated on June 29, 1934, and was the first part of the West Side Improvement Project to be completed. The High Line, which originally ran from 35th Street to the newly constructed St. John's Park Terminal at Spring Street, was designed to go through the center of blocks rather than over an avenue; as a result, the viaduct's construction necessitated the demolition of 640 buildings. It connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to load and unload inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing street traffic. This reduced the load on the Bell Laboratories Building (which has housed the Westbeth Artists Community since 1970) and the former Nabisco plant in Chelsea Market, which were served from protected sidings in the buildings.
The growth of interstate trucking during the 1950s led to a drop in rail traffic throughout the U.S. Around 1960, the southernmost section of the line was demolished, both due to low use and so the West Village Apartments could be built on part of the former segment's right of way. This section began at Bank Street and ran down Washington Street to Spring Street (just north of Canal Street).
By 1978, the High Line viaduct was used to deliver just two carloads of cargo per week. The viaduct was shut down in 1980, when owner Conrail had to disconnect the viaduct from the rest of the national rail system for a year. The closure was necessitated as a result of the construction of Javits Center at 34th Street, which required that the curve at 35th Street be rebuilt. The last train on the viaduct was a three-car consist carrying frozen turkeys. During the time the viaduct was disconnected, two large customers along the route moved to New Jersey. The curve to the viaduct from 35th Street was demolished during the construction of Javits Center and was replaced by the current curve at 34th Street. The tracks leading to the High Line were reconnected in 1981, but as there were no more customers along the route, the curve at 34th Street was never completed, and the viaduct did not see any further usage. At this point, Conrail still owned the right of way and the tracks.
During the mid-1980s, a group of property owners with land under the line lobbied for the demolition of the entire structure. Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court and tried to re-establish rail service on the line. Obletz offered to buy the viaduct for $10 in order to run a small amount of freight trains on the line, and Conrail accepted, mainly because demolition would have cost $5 million. However, this offer was also disputed in court. By 1988, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was negotiating with Conrail for the possibility for using the line's right of way to construct a light rail route. These negotiations did not proceed further, and by the end of the 1980s, it was expected that the High Line would be demolished.
As part of the construction of the Empire Connection to Penn Station, which opened in spring 1991, the West Side Line tracks north of 35th Street were routed to the new Empire Connection tunnel to Penn Station. A small section of the High Line in the West Village, from Bank to Gansevoort Streets, was taken apart in 1991 despite objections by preservationists. Though the remains of the riveted-steel elevated structure was unused and in disrepair during the 1990s, it remained structurally sound. Around this time, it became known to urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs (such as sumac) and rugged trees which had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway. The administration of mayor Rudy Giuliani planned to demolish the structure.
A nonprofit organization called Friends of the High Line was formed in 1999 by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, who lived in the surrounding area. They advocated its preservation and reuse as public open space, an elevated park or greenway similar to the Promenade Plantée in Paris. The organization was initially a small community group advocating the High Line's preservation and transformation when the structure was threatened with demolition during Rudy Giuliani's second term as mayor.
CSX Transportation, which owned the line, had given photographer Joel Sternfeld permission to photograph it for a year. Sternfeld's photographs of its meadow-like natural beauty, discussed in an episode of the documentary series Great Museums, were used at public meetings when the subject of saving the High Line was discussed. Fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg (who had moved her New York City headquarters to the Meatpacking District in 1997) and her husband, Barry Diller, organized fundraising events in her studio. Community support for redevelopment of the High Line for pedestrian use grew, and in 2004 the New York City government committed $50 million to establish the proposed park. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council speakers Gifford Miller and Christine C. Quinn were notable supporters. Funders of the High Line park raised a total of over $150 million (equivalent to $175,174,000 in 2018).
The federal Surface Transportation Board issued a certificate of interim trail use on June 13, 2005, allowing the city to remove most of the line from the national rail system. On April 10, 2006, Mayor Bloomberg presided over a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction. The park was designed by James Corner's New York-based landscape architecture firm Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with garden design by Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands, lighting design from L'Observatoire International, and engineering design by Buro Happold and Robert Silman Associates.New York City Department of City Planning director and city planning commission chair Amanda Burden contributed to the project's development.
Major supporters included Philip Falcone, Diane von Fürstenberg, Barry Diller and von Fürstenberg's children, Alexander and Tatiana. Hotel developer Andre Balazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, built the 337-room Standard Hotel straddling the High Line at West 13th Street.
The southernmost section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened as a city park on June 8, 2009. The section includes five stairways and elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street. Around the same time, construction of the second section began. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on June 7, 2011 to open the second section (from 20th Street to 30th Street), with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Congressman Jerrold Nadler in attendance.CSX Transportation, owner of the northernmost section from 30th to 34th Streets, agreed in principle to donate the section to the city in 2011;the Related Companies, which owns development rights for the West Side Rail Yards, agreed not to tear down the spur crossing 10th Avenue. Construction on the final section was started in September 2012.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the High Line's third phase was held on September 20, 2014, followed the next day by the opening of its third section and a procession down the park. The third phase, costing $76 million, was divided into two parts. The first part (costing $75 million) is from the end of phase 2 of the line to its terminus at 34th Street, west of 11th Avenue. The second part, a spur above Tenth Avenue and 30th Street, has room to install artworks curated by the public art program. The spur was scheduled to open by 2018, but was then delayed to April 2019, and later to June 2019. The spur opened on June 4, 2019, with the installation of a plinth as its initial artwork. It contains entrances to 10 Hudson Yards, which was built over the spur.
The line is maintained by Friends of the High Line, which was founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond in 1999. The organization is credited with saving the structure by rallying public support for the park and convincing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration in 2002 to support the project by filing a request with the Surface Transportation Board to create a public trail on the site. Friends of the High Line played a role in the line's visual aesthetic, holding a competition in conjunction with the city of New York in 2004 to determine the design team which would lead the project. Since the park's opening in 2009, Friends of the High Line has had an agreement with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to serve as its primary steward. The organization is responsible for the daily operation and maintenance of the park, with an annual budget of over $5 million. It has an annual operating budget of $11.5 million, in addition to capital construction and management and fundraising expenses.
Friends of the High Line has raised more than $150 million in public and private funds toward the construction of the first two sections of the park. Unlike the first two phases, to which the city significantly contributed, Friends of the High Line was responsible for raising funds for phase three (an estimated $35 million). The organization raises over 90 percent of the High Line's annual operating budget from private donations. When the city donated $5 million to the High Line in 2012, there was criticism that most city parks had received less funding that year, especially since Friends of the High Line had raised an extra $85 million that year.
The organization has an office on Washington Street, near the park's southern end. It has 80 full-time, year-round employees and about 150 full-time summer employees. Friends of the High Line has been run by president and co-founder Josh David after executive director Jenny Gersten stepped down in 2014. Co-founder Robert Hammond served as executive director until he stepped down in February 2013. Friends of the High Line has a 38-member board of directors consisting of many New York City businesspeople and philanthropists, including Amanda Burden of Bloomberg Associates, Jane Lauder of Estée Lauder Companies, Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation and Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation.
The recycling of the rail line into an urban park has revitalized Chelsea, which was "gritty" and in generally poor condition during the late twentieth century. It has also spurred real-estate development in the neighborhoods along the line. According to Mayor Bloomberg, the High Line project has helped usher in a renaissance of sorts in the neighborhood; by 2009 more than 30 projects were planned or under construction nearby, and by 2016 more than 11 projects were under construction. It has also helped raise the value of properties directly adjacent to the High Line by an average of 10 percent over properties a few blocks away. At least 20 properties abutting the High Line have sold for at least $10 million since the park's opening in 2009, with an apartment in a building directly adjacent to the park selling for an average of $6 million. Apartments located near Phase 1 of the High Line are, on average, more than twice as costly as those between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (two blocks east). In August 2016, the park continued to increase real-estate values along it in an example of the halo effect.
Residents who have bought apartments next to the High Line have adapted to its presence in various ways, but most responses are positive; however, some say that the park has become a "tourist-clogged catwalk" since it opened. The real-estate boom has not been victimless; many established businesses in west Chelsea have closed due to loss of their neighborhood customer base or rent increases. Chelsea has significant minority communities, many of whom live in two large public housing developments. In a 2017 interview, Friends of the High Line co-founder Robert Hammond said that he "failed" the community; the High Line did not fulfill its original purpose of serving the surrounding neighborhood, which had become demographically divided around the park.
Crime has been low in the park. Shortly after the second section opened in 2011, The New York Times reported that there had been no reports of major crimes (such as assault or robbery) since the first phase opened two years earlier. Parks Enforcement Patrols have written summonses for infractions of park rules such as walking dogs or riding bicycles on the walkway at a lower rate than in Central Park. Park advocates attributed this to the visibility of the High Line from surrounding buildings, a feature of urban life espoused by author Jane Jacobs nearly fifty years before. According to Joshua David, "Empty parks are dangerous ... Busy parks are much less so. You're virtually never alone on the High Line." In a review of the Highliner restaurant – which has now reverted to its previous name, the Empire Diner – Ariel Levy wrote in The New Yorker that... "The new Chelsea that is emerging on weekends as visitors flood the elevated park ... [is] touristy, overpriced, and shiny."
Due to the High Line's popularity, there have been several proposals for museums along its path. The Dia Art Foundation considered (but rejected) a proposal to build a museum at the Gansevoort Street terminus. On that site, the Whitney Museum has built a new home for its collection of American art. The building, designed by Renzo Piano, opened on May 1, 2015.
The High Line's success in New York City has encouraged leaders in other cities such as Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who sees it as "a symbol and catalyst" for gentrifying neighborhoods. Several cities nationwide have plans to renovate railroad infrastructure into parkland, including Philadelphia's Rail Park, Atlanta's Belt Line, and Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail. The High Line has helped pioneer the creation of elevated parks worldwide. In Queens, the Queensway (a proposed aerial rail trail) is being considered for reactivation along the right-of-way of the former Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Branch. Other cities around the world are planning elevated rails-to-trails parks in what a writer has called the "High Line effect".
According to some estimates, it costs substantially less to redevelop an abandoned urban rail line into a linear park than to demolish it. Landscape architect James Corner (who led the High Line's design team) noted that "The High Line is not easily replicable in other cities," however, observing that building a "cool park" requires a "framework" of neighborhoods around it to succeed.
In 2016, Friends of the High Line launched the High Line Network to support similar infrastructure re-use projects being developed in other cities. There are currently 19 projects in the network, including River LA, the Atlanta Beltline, Crissy Field, Dequindre Cut, the Lowline, Klyde Warren Park, the Bentway and the Trinity River Project.
The line has been depicted in a variety of media before and after its redevelopment. The 1979 film Manhattan includes a shot of the High Line as director and star Woody Allen speaks the first line: "Chapter One. He adored New York City." Director Zbigniew Rybczy?ski shot the music video for Art of Noise's single, "Close (to the Edit)" on the line in 1984.
In 2001 (two years after the formation of the Friends of the High Line), photographer Joel Sternfeld documented the High Line's flora and dilapidation in his book, Walking the High Line. The book also contains essays by writer Adam Gopnik and historian John R. Stilgoe. Sternfeld's work was regularly discussed and exhibited during the 2000s as the rehabilitation project developed.Alan Weisman's 2007 book, The World Without Us, cites the High Line as an example of the reappearance of the wild in an abandoned area. That year, chase scenes from the zombie apocalypse film I Am Legend were filmed there and in the Meatpacking District.Kinetics & One Love's 2009 song, "The High Line", uses the line (before its conversion to a park) as an example of nature's reclamation of man-made structures.
A number of films and television programs have utilized the High Line since the park opened. In 2011, the television series Louie used it as a setting for one of the title character's dates. Other works with scenes on the High Line since its conversion include the HBO series Girls, the Simpsons episode "Moonshine River" and the film, What Maisie Knew.
Neighborhoods, developments, and places nearby:
The New York World referred to the West Side route as Death Avenue in 1892, long after the Park Avenue problem had been solved, saying 'many had been sacrificed' to 'a monster which has menaced them night and day.'
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.
Map of New York Central's West Side Line.