Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

High Line Park, New York City

This is Manhattan, 2016.

And this is also Manhattan, 2016, as seen from
the city's new High Line Park
In a city which prides itself in have one of the oldest, largest, and best urban parks in the world, it seems kind of incongruous that it should also have one of the newest, smallest, and best urban parks in the world as well. (The best part is hard to confirm, given the other two qualities.) Just as New York's Central Park set the standard for dozens of similar urban landscapes in the late 19th-century, New York's High Line Park is already being imitated by cities around the world where destitute land, often choked with weeds, crime, and disuse are being repurposed into much needed greenspace amid the soaring architecture of the 21st-century. Regardless of the actual validity of the adjectives used to describe it, this 1930s era elevated railway transformed into a 21st-century park on the west side of Midtown Manhattan, certainly deserves the term, unique.

New York's Standard, High Line Hotel rises astraddle
High Line Park bringing a welcome "gentrification"
to what were formerly downtrodden neighborhoods.
As part of my continuing series on the world's most outstanding urban parks, we find that New York's High Line Park rises above it all. Where once dirty, noisy, freight trains bore the commerce of the city's garment and meatpacking districts to market, today city dwellers and savvy tourists walk, relax, eat, drink, talk, and take pictures of the city from a perspective never before available to any but the wealthy residents of skyscraping skyline apartments. Today, rising above the former elevated train line that has become downtown’s favorite public park, The Standard, High Line (above) is located in New York City’s Meatpacking District. Every one of its 338 rooms features a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Manhattan and/or the Hudson River. The hotel’s inviting public spaces include a bustling German beer garden on the ground level, a rooftop discothèque, the legendary Top of The Standard Restaurant, a winter ice rink, and an outdoor public plaza with rotating art installations.

The red spots on the left map mark entry/exit locations. The map
at right places the park in relationship to the rest of the city.
High Line Park is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. It was inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) Promenade Plantée (tree-lined walkway), in Paris which was completed in 1993. The High Line has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park. The High Line 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 Convention Center.

The West Side Line, a disused eyesore antiquated by the
rapid growth of interstate highways and the trucking industry.
In 1847, the City of New York authorized street-level railroad tracks down Manhattan's West Side to ship freight. For safety, the railroads hired men called the "West Side Cowboys" to ride horses and wave flags in front of the trains. However, so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that Tenth Avenue soon became deadly. After years of public debate about the hazard, in 1929 the city, the state, and the New York Central Railroad agreed on the construction of the West Side Elevated Highway. The 13-mile (21 km) project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings and added 32 acres to Riverside Park. It cost more than $150-million at the time (about $2.07-billion today). The High Line viaduct, opened to trains in 1934. It originally ran from 34th Street to St. John's Park Terminal at Spring Street. It was unusual in that it was designed to go through the center of blocks rather than over the streets below. It connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to load and unload their cargo inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, raw and manufactured goods could be moved and unloaded without disturbing traffic.

Amid the local plant life, High Line Park designers
frequently left intact reminders of the park's former use.
Times change. The growth of interstate trucking in the 1950s led to a drop in rail traffic throughout the nation. By 1960, the southernmost section of the line was demolished due to low use. This section representing almost half of the line. The last train on the remaining part of the line ran in 1980. During the 1990s, the line lay in disrepair, though the riveted-steel elevated structure was structurally sound. Mayor Rudy Giuliani wanted to tear it down. But in 1999, the nonprofit organization, Friends of the High Line, was formed by residents of the neighborhoods which the line ran through. They advocated that the line be preserved and reused as public open space, making it an elevated greenway park. A TV documentary and a series of photos broadened community support for High Line to become a pedestrian park. In 2004, the city committed $50-million to establish the proposed park. A new mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was an important supporter. In total, funders of the High Line Park raised more than $150-million.

A park entrance can be seen along with various other
sweeping vistas adding variety to the pedestrian concourse.
The new park was designed by James Corner's New York-based landscape architecture firm, Field Operations, and architects Diller Scofidio and planting designer Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands. Lighting was designed by L'Observatoire International, while engineering was handled by Buro Happold. The southernmost section of the park opened on June 8, 2009. This section includes five stairways along with elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street. Around the same time, construction for the second section began. Additional sections were opened in 2011 and 2014. A final section is slated for completion in 2017.

Park enhancements looming in the near future or already completed.
The recycling of the railway into an urban park brought a revitalization of the Chelsea neighborhood, which had become rundown during the late 20th-century. It has also spurred real estate development in various other areas along the line. Mayor Bloomberg noted that the High Line project has ushered in a neighborhood renaissance with more than 30 projects planned or under construction nearby. Residents who bought apartments next to the High Line Park have adapted to its presence in varying ways, but most responses are positive. However, some claim that the park has become a tourist-clogged catwalk. Likewise, the real estate boom has not been victimless. Many well-established businesses in west Chelsea have closed due to rent increases.

The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter,
10 p.m. in the spring and fall, and 11 p.m. in the summer,
Crime has been very low in the park. Parks Enforcement Patrols have written summonses for various infractions of park rules, such as walking dogs or riding bicycles on the walkway, but at a rate lower than in Central Park. Park advocates attributed that to the high visibility of the High Line from the surrounding buildings. According to Joshua David, a co-founder of Friends of the High Line, "Empty parks are dangerous. Busy parks are much less so."

The other end of the line...for now.
And please don't pick the flowers.


No comments:

Post a Comment