Volume 74, Number 24 | Octuber 13 - 19 , 2004

Villager photos by Ramin Talaie

Gathering on the High Line near the Gansevoort Market end on Oct. 6 to celebrate the imminent conversion of the derelict rail viaduct into a 1.5-mile elevated park were, left to right, Christine Glassner, of the Empire State Development Corp., State Senator Tom Duane; City Councilmember Christine Quinn; Council Speaker Gifford Miller; Assemblymember Richard Gottfried; Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Adrian Benepe; Mayor Bloomberg; City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden; Andrew Alper, president of the city Economic Development Corp.; and Joshua David and Robert Hammond, founders of Friends of the High Line, the group promoting the project.

State and owner get aboard the High Line greenway plan

By Albert Amateau

Mayor Mike Bloomberg went up onto the High Line last week to celebrate three events that could fast-track the beginning of construction to transform the 1.5-mile derelict railroad viaduct that traverses West Chelsea into a spectacular elevated park.

Under a cloudless sky on Wed., Oct. 6, the mayor, joined by local elected officials, Friends of the High Line leaders and state representatives, announced that the state and CSX, the railroad that owns the viaduct, have joined the city in a formal application to the federal State Surface Transportation Board to transfer the rail line into the federal rail-banking program.

It marks the first time that the railroad company and the state, the largest owner of property along the High Line right-of-way, have joined the city and Friends of the High Line in requesting that the High Line be preserved for the federal Rails to Trails program.

The mayor and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller also announced the dedication of $27.7 million in new funds in the 2006-2008 budget for the project, making a total of $43.25 million available so far for creating the linear park running more than 20 feet above street level from the Gansevoort Market to the Javits Convention Center.

Although the funding is short of the $60 million to $100 million estimated total cost, it is enough to start work on the project by the team led by Field Operations, headed by James Corner, with the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Corner’s team, selected in August, was officially designated at the Wednesday event as the High Line project master planner.

“This investment will pay a handsome dividend in park and open space that will leverage added tax revenues of $13 million a year,” said Bloomberg at the ceremony where City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden and Christine Glassner, representing Governor Pataki and Empire State Development Corporation, were among the guests.

Bloomberg noted that Congressmember Jerrold Nadler has included $5 million for the High Line in the six-year federal transportation bill now moving through Congress, and Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton are working to supplement the money while the bill is in the Senate.

Corner, who is also head of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Architecture, predicted the High Line would become “one of the world’s most spectacular open spaces.” The structure, built 70 years ago to raise dangerous freight traffic from the surface of 10th Ave., ranges from 30-to-60-feet wide. It formerly extended south to the St. John’s rail terminal near Canal St. but the sections south of Gansevoort St. were demolished more than 10 years ago.

Corner’s team was selected over three rivals on the basis of a concept design. The project will be built in stages beginning at the south end. The master plan could be completed in time to allow groundbreaking by early next year and the opening of a section from Gansevoort St. to 14th St. by the spring of 2006, Corner said. The High Line plan will be the subject of a three-hour meeting for public participation beginning at 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 19, at the Manhattan Pavilion, 110 W. 19th St.

Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line with Joshua David, recalled the beginning of the High Line movement.

“Five and a half years ago when we started this effort, we were called dreamers,” Hammond said. He paid tribute to Bloomberg for supporting the High Line as a mayoral candidate.

Bloomberg and Planning Commissioner Burden see the proposed elevated park as linking three revitalized West Side neighborhoods: the Gansevoort Historic District, a new West Chelsea gallery area and the redeveloped Hudson Yards district to the north, including the controversial New York Sports and Convention Center stadium proposed for the rail yards south of the Javits Convention Center.

Responding to a question about how he came to support the preservation of the High Line, Bloomberg acknowledged that he first thought it was a crazy idea. “Then I took a look at it and thought ‘Why not?’ We don’t have anything like it and there should be one of everything in New York. That’s what New York is about,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Governor Pataki said the state has taken an important step forward to realize the full potential of the High Line. “Thanks to great cooperation at all levels of government, the High Line can now be transformed into a new open space for all New Yorkers to enjoy,” the statement said.

Ed Norton, the actor and member of the Friends of the High Line board of directors, recalled first seeing the High Line several years ago from the roof of a Horatio St. building and becoming an activist when he learned that neighbors were organizing to save the structure.

City Councilmember Christine Quinn, State Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick stood up with the mayor along with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

CSX and the city have agreed to manage the High Line jointly, the mayor noted. “So please stay off until it’s ready to open,” he said.

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