Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Villager photo by Toni Dalton

Andre Balazs’s Standard Hotel is being built over the High Line at Little W. 12th St.

Work on High Line park project is chugging along

By Albert Amateau

The High Line project is on track and the first section of the old elevated rail line between Gansevoort and W. 20th Sts. will open to the public as a park in the summer of 2008, Friends of the High Line told West Side residents on March 8.

A meeting on construction progress drew nearly 100 residents mostly from Chelsea to the Hudson Guild to hear Friends staff members Meredith Taylor and Peter Mullan, along with Michael Bradley, the city Department of Parks’ High Line project administrator, talk about the future “park in the sky.”

The last vestiges of the rails, ties and gravel ballast have been stripped from the south end of the 5-mile viaduct and the rails are being stored on the High Line north of 20th St.

Work on cleaning and repairing the concrete and installing a new waterproofing and drainage system in the nine-block-long southern segment began this week.

Drainage pipes extending down along the vertical columns of the High Line will bring rain runoff to sewer openings in the street. Painting the steel, one small section at a time under a protective flexible shroud, has been underway for nearly two weeks and will likely be completed in May, Mullan said.

The landscape work — new gravel, plantings, paths, seating and lighting — designed by a team that includes the landscape firm of Field Operations and architects Diller & Scafidio & Renfro, will begin this summer, Mullan said. At various places the High Line landscape will include some of the rails that have been stored — “just to let people know that this was built as a railroad,” he said.

“Pigeon proofing is an important part of the project because the droppings rust steel,” Mullan said. Interior girders will include metal panels at steep angles so that pigeons cannot roost. Exterior steel will include thin horizontal bird wire to deter pigeon roosting.

Five access stairways, three of them with elevators, will be built between Gansevoort and 20th Sts. by the summer of 2008. Three of the entryways/exits will be permanent and two will be temporary.

The permanent stair/elevator locations will be Gansevoort St. at the south end of the High Line, at 14th St. and at 16th St., the latter which The Related Companies is building in conjunction with the Caledonia, the residential condo building under construction between 16th and 17th Sts.

In response to skeptical questions about the public use of the 16th St. access, Mullan declared that access to the High Line deck must by law be public. The Caledonia, however, would have its own connection to the High Line stairway.

A temporary stairway to the High Line will be built at 18th St., from the parking lot now used by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in the building on the south side of 18th St. The parking lot will be developed later as a plaza for a residential project.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is planning to develop a new museum at the Gansevoort St. entrance to the High Line park, but that project is expected to be in construction when the High Line opens. In addition, Andre Balazs is building a 337-room hotel, The Standard, at 448 Washington St., which will straddle the High Line at Little W. 12th St.

The other temporary access to the High Line will be at the 20th St. end of the section, planned to open in 2008.

Preparatory work on the second section of the High Line, between 20th and 30th Sts., will begin this summer. But the schedule for the last section of the rail viaduct that swings around the rail yards to the West Side Highway and back to 11th Ave. at 34th St. is still uncertain.

That northern segment is still owned by CSX, the railroad company that inherited the viaduct built in 1933 by the New York Central Railroad. The segment skirts the western rail yards once envisioned as the site of a New York Jets football stadium. Since the demise of the stadium plan, the future of the rail yards and the High Line section around it has been uncertain.

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