Volume 78 / Number 15, September 10 - 16, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Actor Kevin Bacon with his daughter Sosie Ruth at Calvin Klein’s Fashion Week party on the High Line.

High fashion on High Line

A-list attendees of the 40th anniversary fete for fashion legend Calvin Klein were given privileged access to a portion of the High Line on Sunday night at an event touted as the premier party of New York’s Fashion Week. Top-tier celebs mingled with design demigods on the elevated section at 30th St. and 10th Ave., which still maintained a ruggedly rusty appearance despite the imported gilt and glam.

Friends of the High Line cofounders Robert Hammond and Joshua David marveled at how far the project has come in the nine years since they first conceived of it at a serendipitous local community board meeting.

“The High Line has led to lots of surreal events,” Hammond acknowledged while standing near the entrance of the temporary three-story structure that connected to the railway, built specially for Calvin Klein by architect John Pawson for the one-night-only soiree. “A lot of people give us a lot of credit for it,” he said of pushing for the park, but noted that supporters like Klein and design doyenne Diane Von Furstenberg “were here way before we were.”

According to multiple insiders, Klein donated a $1 million gift to Friends of the High Line for the party, in addition to what the company spent on construction, which the Daily News reported totaled around $3 million. While Hammond didn’t comment on the amount of the donation, he said the gift has already allowed F.H.L. to hire a horticulturalist and will help bring on additional maintenance staff.

James Corner, principal of the High Line’s landscape design team, Field Operations, also expressed awe at the project’s genesis.

“Just think how derelict this thing used to be and all the bad energy, and now it’s just so positive and exciting and productive and new,” he said. “It’s amazing how something once thought to be so bad is now soon to be so great.”

Some of the boldfaced names in attendance saw the event as a testament to progress at the park, commenting on the necessity of open space and even playing urban planner for the evening.

Actress Eva Mendes at the CK party.

“I spent most of my life here, and I feel like our outdoor spaces are incredibly important to us,” said actor Kevin Bacon, an early proponent of the project, who spoke at the High Line’s ceremonial rail-lifting when construction began back in 2006. “I’m always happy when I see a nice, new building going up. But when you take something that exists and create a park — a park that can be shared by everybody, that isn’t exclusive to people of any sort of socioeconomic group — to me, it’s like the backbone of New York.”

Bacon, a frequent visitor of the Hudson River Park, said he supports alternative forms of transportation and would eventually like to see “a trail completely circling Manhattan.”

“We all live in these tiny, little boxes, and we need our outdoor spaces, wherever they are,” he said. “There’s only room for so many parks; and here existed something that you’re not going to take anything away from anybody.”

Stage and screen star Alan Cumming added that as a former Chelsea resident who lived within view of the High Line, his interest was often piqued by the defunct, 1.5-mile-long railway. “I was always trying to find a little hole to climb up and get in — I’ve been trying to get in for years,” he said. “It’s going to be a great thing for the city. I love how it’s kind of an old, functional thing that’s now going a bit wild — a bit like Calvin.”

Actor/author Ethan Hawke, also a Chelsea resident, has been similarly curious about the High Line while living in a brownstone only a few blocks away from it.

“I’ve been staring at this thing for years wondering what was going to happen to it, and I’m so happy they’re not tearing it down,” he said. The railway reminded him of the Promenade Plantée in Paris, a similar elevated park featured in scenes from his hit film “Before Sunset.” “They did this in Paris, and it burned a hole in my brain about what a magical park it is, and how we should have something like this in New York,” he added.

Hammond and David remained mum on the expected opening date of the High Line’s first section, between Gansevoort and 20th Sts., which had been set to debut late this year. But early Monday morning, only hours after guests had finished partying in Klein’s honor, some of the first grass and perennial plantings were delivered and set in soil at one section of the High Line.

“The more parks we have, the better,” said actor John Leguizamo, who has also been a vocal opponent of the renovations at Washington Square Park. “You need the green spaces so people in this concrete jungle can relax and not go postal on people.”

He added the party’s location was a fitting setting for Klein’s anniversary.

“Maybe it’s a metaphor for him — salvaging who he his and starting anew.”



Mayor inks Buildings bills

The mayor signed into law last week legislation aimed at strengthening enforcement at construction sights and modifying the qualifications of future Department of Buildings commissioners.

According to one of two bills signed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg last Wednesday, the city will require the presence of concrete-safety managers on job sites of 10 or more stories where a minimum of 2,000 cubic yards of concrete are poured. Additionally, Intro. Number 790-A requires these safety managers to register with D.O.B. and continually monitor concrete operations for compliance with safe practices and building regulations. The legislation stipulates that new managers will undergo extensive department-developed training, and they will have to include in their building plans a statement that workers have completed a special course on construction safety and health within five years of working on a site.

The second measure, Intro. Number 755-A, requires that either the D.O.B. commissioner or first deputy commissioner be a licensed architect or engineer to hold the job. The move came after the mayor officially promoted former Buildings Acting Commissioner Robert LiMandri — who is not a licensed architect or engineer — to department commissioner.

“Being Buildings commissioner is a management job that requires management expertise,” Bloomberg said at the bill signing. “We should not eliminate top candidates for that important position just because they don’t have the professional licenses that have no bearing on their ability to excel in the job. We need the best people in city government. When outdated regulations get in the way of that, we should change them.”

The City Council also voted last week on another series of building-related measures; one to improve crane operation safety, and the other to make it illegal for individuals to scale any city structure more than 50 feet tall, including statues, cranes, bridges, signs or buildings.

mixeduse@communitymediallc.com

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