Volume 80, Number 51 | May 19 - 25, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Tim Schenck

Installing plantings on the High Line’s second section beneath the “woodland flyover” area between W. 25th and W. 26th Sts.

High Line on track to grow; Whitney is breaking ground

By Albert Amateau

The second section of the High Line park will open on schedule in June, doubling the existing size of the “park in the sky” that is taking shape segment by segment on the old West Side railroad viaduct.

Meanwhile, the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Whitney Museum of American Art on Gansevoort St. at the foot of the High Line will be at 11 a.m. Tues., May 24.

The new Whitney, designed by Renzo Piano, will be built during the next four years with completion scheduled for 2015. At the same time, the High Line maintenance-and-operations building, also designed by Renzo Piano, will be built between the Whitney and the southern end of the High Line.

The “M & O” building, also scheduled for completion in 2015, will be separate from the museum but attached to the High Line. It will provide access to the park for equipment and maintenance employees.

The new half-mile-long section of the High Line park between W. 20th and W. 30th Sts. will connect the Meatpacking District with West Chelsea and the West Side rail yards when it opens in June. Friends of the High Line, the civic group that conceived of the elevated park and runs it for the Department of Parks, would not give a specific date, but confirmed the June opening. Since the park’s first section, between Gansevoort and W. 20th Sts., opened in June 2009 the High Line has had nearly 3 million visits.

“With twice as much park to enjoy, we are looking forward to introducing our neighbors to new design features,” said Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of the High Line. The new section will include the High Line’s very first lawn, located between 22nd and 23rd Sts.

“It will be open for picnicking, sunbathing and people-watching,” David said of the 4,900 square feet of turf.

At the northern end, the lawn slopes up 2.5 feet to offer visitors views of the Hudson River to the west and Brooklyn to the east. A flight of seating steps, made of reclaimed teak from Southeast Asia, are another feature of the lawn, conceived as the central gathering place of the second section.

A “woodland flyover,” a steel walkway that rises 8 feet above the High Line level, will bring visitors above the canopy of sumac and magnolia trees between W. 25th and W. 26th Sts. The level below the flyover will have shade groundcover and moss plantings.

A “viewing spur,” a painted steel frame that overlooks 10th Ave. and the Elliott Chelsea Houses to the east of the High Line, will be located at W. 26 St. The steel frame is intended to be a reminder of the billboards that were once attached to the High Line — but when viewed from the street, the frame will show park visitors rather than the ads that the billboards once did.

A “wildflower field” will run for three blocks between W. 26th and W. 29th Sts. along a straight walkway. Old railroad ties, salvaged from the railroad viaduct, will be laid among the plants.

At the north end of the wildflower field, the High Line path lined with a bench made of reclaimed teak curves to the west toward the Hudson River.

Spanning W. 30th St., the High Line’s concrete deck will be cut out to reveal the grid work of the viaduct’s beams and girders. A steel path above the cutout will allow visitors to look down through the grid work to 30th St. below.

Four stairways and two elevators will provide access to Section 2 of the High Line. Stairs will be located at 23rd, 26th, 28th and 30th Sts. Elevators will be located at 23rd and 30th Sts.

Scheduled to coincide with the opening of the second section, Friends of the High Line will present a sound installation, “Digital Empathy,” by Julianne Swartz, to run from June 11 through the spring of next year.

The installation will feature computer-generated voices emanating from 11 different locations on the High Line, welcoming visitors, providing information, messages of love and support, telling jokes and reciting poetry.

Friends of the High Line will also present four performances of “Roof Piece,” by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, on roofs of buildings surrounding Section 1 of the park on June 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. and twice on June 11, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ten dancers on different rooftops will begin improvisations to be picked up by the dancer on the nearest roof. Park visitors will be able to see one dancer from one location at a time, but may go to other locations to see the other dancers.

The High Line will also present a wood-and-stainless steel sculptural installation, “Behavior and Its Evidence,” by Sarah Sze, to be on view from June 11 to the spring of next year. The installation flanks the walking paths between 20th and 21st Sts., with two sides forming an open archway and the visitors walking through the installation, which is intended to attract birds, butterflies and insects.

The new museum will be built on city-owned land, the sale of which to the Whitney will be finalized next week, according to Stephen Soba, the Whitney’s spokesperson.

The Whitney has scheduled free public “Community Day” events on Sat., May 21, and Sun., May 22, as a prologue to the May 24, groundbreaking ceremony. Lize Mogel will lead a walking tour, “Mollusks to Meat Hooks to Moschino,” departing from a tent on the Whitney site and traveling around the neighborhood from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

On Saturday and Sunday evening, Kate Gilmore’s video “Standing Here” will be projected on the exterior walls and supports of The Standard, 848 Washington St., the hotel that straddles the High Line. The video, which will run from 8:30 p.m. through 12:30 a.m., shows Gilmore in a frilly pink dress trying to climb a sheetrock wall.

The Whitney and Friends of the High Line are offering children and parents guided tours of the High Line, leaving from Chelsea Market, at 16th St. and 10th Ave., on Saturday morning every 15 minutes, beginning at 10 a.m., with the last one leaving at 11:30 a.m.

After the new Whitney Museum is completed and opened in 2015, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will present exhibits and educational programs at the Whitney’s landmarked Marcel Breuer Building, at Madison Ave. and 75th St. Under an agreement with the Whitney, the Met will use the Breuer building for eight years, with the possibility of extending the agreement for a longer term.

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