Volume 76, Number 30 | December 20 - 26, 2006

Editorial

Get all the High Line aboard the park plan
 

The High Line park has been hailed as one of the most stunning and revolutionary urban-design projects of our time. And it’s a project that almost everyone is firmly behind — from west Chelsea gallery owners, to residents and park advocates, to the Bloomberg administration, to landlords who stand to reap the windfall of increased property values.

The remaining section of this old elevated freight railway — from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. — is all that’s left of it. That’s why it’s so important to preserve it in its entirety. What’s more, the majestic northern loop — the part from 30th St. to 34th St. — is the High Line’s crown jewel. From atop the great northern loop one is afforded unobstructed views of the Hudson River and a feeling of openness and freedom so rare to find in the heart of the city — which is what makes the High Line so special.

That’s why there is such concern over the fact that this uptown section is unprotected. While the rest of the line has been acquired by the city, the northern section is still under CSX’s control — and thus at risk of, at worst, demolition and disappearing forever, and, at the least, demolition and being rebuilt later in some poor facsimile approximating how it was. This situation exists because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail yards around which the High Line sweeps here are a prime development site.

The Bloomberg administration’s planned stadium for the Jets and Olympics on the rail yards fell through in the face of overwhelming community and political opposition. Plans had called for at least a section of the High Line to be chopped out to better allow construction vehicles and materials into the site — though this removed part would be replaced later with a replica section. With the stadium’s scuttling, the High Line’s northern end received a respite. Now development rumblings are once again being heard, with requests for proposals from developers for the rail yards expected in the coming months. Once again, the High Line’s 30s section — held in limbo by the M.T.A. and city — may be put at great risk.

Also, if the line is cut, it will disqualify the amputated sections from being in the federal Rails-to-Trails program, warn Friends of the High Line — the park’s main advocacy group — meaning these parts won’t be eligible for public use.

The community didn’t want a stadium; it does want a full High Line park. The rail yards can easily be developed using various existing access points, such as at their northern end at 34th St. There’s no reason why the High Line need be damaged for any development project.

Let’s not blow the opportunity — when we’re already two-thirds of the way there — to create one of New York City’s truly wondrous green spaces. Preserve the union of the north and south of the High Line — and transfer ownership as soon as possible. Doing so now will head off future dire consequences before they happen.


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