The Highline is a railway that went through downtown Manhattan and was abandoned. It was used to transport goods to manufactures and factories along the westside of the City. Meanwhile indigenous foliage took root over the years on the highland and grew wildly. In 2009, it was turned into a public park providing a unique elevated view meandering through the city with the natural foliage still in place, providing a peaceful escape for New Yorkers. The park is equipped with movable wooden lounge chairs secured on rails with an expansive view of the Hudson River, and a stream of water to wade through on those humid east coast days. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, included Diller Scofidio + Renfro architects.
The idea was modeled after the
in France, which was also an abandoned service railway turned into a public park.
Similar projects involving old railway yards converting into public spaces:
Here in LA is another unused abandoned waste space that has turned into a public park, that also has a tie to old railway tracks.
In Seattle, the Olympic Sculpture Park was also an unused space of railway tracks that has since turned into a public park managed by the Seattle Art Museum and displays its collection of sculptures by such artists as Louise Bourgeiois and Richard Sera.
The project gained the City’s support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line’s public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened June 9, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened in spring, 2011.
West Side Cowboy
The City of New York authorizes street-level railroad tracks down Manhattan’s West Side.
1851 – 1929
So many accidents occur between freight trains and street-level traffic that 10th Avenue becomes known as Death Avenue. For safety, men on horses, called the West Side Cowboys, ride in front of trains waving red flags.
After years of public debate about the hazard, the City and State of New York and the New York Central Railroad agree on the West Side Improvement Project, which includes the High Line. The entire project is 13 miles long, eliminates 105 street-level railroad crossings, and adds 32 acres to Riverside Park. It costs over $150 million in 1930 dollars—more than $2 billion today.
The High Line opens to trains. It runs from 34th Street to St. John’s Park Terminal, at Spring Street. It is designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue, to avoid creating the negative conditions associated with elevated subways. It connects directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods come and go without causing street-level traffic.
Growth of interstate trucking leads to a drop in rail traffic, nationally and on the High Line.
The southernmost section of the High Line is demolished.
The last train runs on the High Line pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys.
A group of property owners lobbies for demolition of the entire structure. Members of this group own land under the High Line that was purchased at prices reflecting the High Line’s easement.
Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenges demolition efforts in court and tries to re-establish rail service on the Line.
Friends of the High Line is founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the High Line neighborhood, to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space.
2001 – 2002
The Design Trust for Public Space provides a fellowship for architect Casey Jones to conduct research and outreach for “Reclaiming the High Line,” a planning study jointly produced by the Design Trust and Friends of the High Line, which lays out planning framework for the High Line’s preservation and reuse.
Friends of the High Line gains first City support—a City Council resolution advocating for the High Line’s reuse.
A study done by Friends of the High Line finds that the High Line project is economically rational: New tax revenues created by the public space will be greater than the costs of construction.
The City files with the federal Surface Transportation Board for railbanking, making it City policy to preserve and reuse the High Line.
January – July 2003
An open ideas competition, “Designing the High Line,” solicits proposals for the High Line’s reuse. 720 teams from 36 countries enter. Hundreds of design entries are displayed at Grand Central Terminal.