Beyond the High Line

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Jennette Mullaney
Photo by Liz LigonFreshkills Park Administrator Eloise Hirsh spoke eloquently about the former-landfill turned oasis. "Like the High Line, it is a park of the 21st century," she said of Freshkills. Photo by Liz Ligon

How do we transform a once-notorious landfill into a beautiful New York City park?

On Monday, September 23, we hosted a discussion on the metamorphosis of Staten Island's Fresh Kills Landfill – once the largest landfill in the world – into Freshkills Park, a 2,200-acre oasis. James Corner of James Corner Field Operations and Eloise Hirsh of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation spoke about the incredible changes they've been making to this site since the landfill closed in 2001.

James Corner Field Operations, the lead on the High Line's design team, is also leading the design of Freshkills Park. Corner discussed the unique challenges he's faced on this project, as well as the park's many idiosyncrasies. "If Freshkills is to be a living, and dynamic, and changing, and growing landscape, in a sense it never has a finished state," he remarked.

As the administrator of Freshkills Park, Hirsh has also witnessed the former landfill's about-face, and spoke eloquently of the site's transformation. "It is the most elegant testimony to the strength of nature that you can possibly imagine," said Hirsh. She also underscored the park's commitment to sustainability, describing their use of animal husbandry and green building.

Watch our full-length video of the talk below. For more images of the landfill-turned-park, see our recent photo essay.

Amelia Krales
Photo by Friends of the High Line A group of High Line staff members enjoy the breeze and panoramic view from the top of a hill in Freshkills Park on Staten Island. Come learn more about the park at our free talk on September 23, Beyond the High Line: Transforming Fresh Kills, Staten Island . And visit Freshkills itself on September 29 for Sneak Peak! Photo by Friends of the High Line

On Tuesday, September 10, twelve members of the High Line staff took a trip to tour Freshkills Park in Staten Island, built on the former site of the world’s largest landfill. With 2,200 acres, the park is almost three times larger than Central Park.

Freshkills is divided into five sections, most of which are not yet open to the public. However, we were given the opportunity to look behind the scenes (and up the hills and in the meadows) with Michael Callery, one of the stewards of this amazing reclaimed site.

Jennette Mullaney
Majora Carter and Enrique PeñalosaMajora Carter and Enrique Peñalosa joined us for a lively panel discussion on equality in public spaces. “Parks were a means to an end, an end of empowerment, of joy,” said Carter, recalling her groundbreaking work in the South Bronx. Photo by Rowa Lee

Renowned urban strategists Enrique Peñalosa and Majora Carter joined us for a July 15 panel discussion on building and sustaining equality in public open space. The dynamic speakers left the audience energized and inspired—no easy feat during the throes of a heat wave.

“A good city should feel like a park,” said Enrique Peñalosa near the end of a powerful presentation. The former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, spoke passionately about the benefits that access to parks and other green places bring to a city’s inhabitants.

His sentiment was echoed by Majora Carter of MCG Consulting. The MacArthur “genius” Fellow and Peabody Award–winning broadcaster gave a galvanizing presentation on urban revitalization. "You don't have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one,” Carter told the audience.

Watch our full-length video of the talk below. Our media partner Next City provides additional coverage in “Looking for Equality in Public Spaces.”

Jennette Mullaney

On June 24, Paul Levy of Center City District and Leah Murphy of Interface Studio and Friends of the Rail Park came to the High Line to discuss the future of Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct. To discover what’s in store for this former city rail line, view our full-length video of the event.

For more information on the Viaduct, see “Atop Its Predecessor, Laying Out Future Options for Philly’s Reading Viaduct” by our media partner Next City.

“Beyond the High Line: Transforming Philadelphia” is part of an ongoing series of free talks to educate and inspire conversation about the transformation of the country's out-of-use industrial infrastructure into public open space. Join us on Monday, September 23, for a discussion on Staten Island’s Fresh Kills—a former landfill that is being redesigned as a public park.

Kate Lindquist
High Line TalksPlans are in the works to turn New Orleans’ Lafitte Corridor into public open space. Photo by Jackson Hill Photography

Leaders and thinkers in Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and other cities are pioneering adaptive reuse projects, and they’re pointing to the High Line as an example of how to make it work.

Some call them copycat projects, but their approach is more nuanced. They are taking inspiration from the unique context and history in their own neighborhoods and finding ways to use it to their advantage as they reinvent and open old infrastructure and out-of-use spaces to the public.

You can find good examples of this type of creative thinking in New Orleans, where designers, grassroots organizations, and civic leaders are joining together to pursue new green adaptive reuse projects that coexist with water.

Follow us after to watch the video and view photos from a talk on the High Line earlier this month about the Crescent City.

Kate Lindquist
Young volunteers painting a mural on the side of a commercial building in downtown Detroit. Photo by David Schalliol.

Long recognized as one of the country’s most challenged urban centers, Detroit is now undergoing an important renaissance, with new real estate investment, the return of local businesses from the suburbs, and a growing downtown office market. What role does public space play in the city’s revitalization?

Erika Harvey
Roosevelt Park sits in front of Michigan Central Station, the old railway station that seen a train in over two decades. Leaders from the Roosevelt Park Conservancy, the organization that is implementing capital improvements and developing a master plan for the site, will be at the High Line on Monday, July 23 to talk about public spaces in Detroit. Photo by David Schalliol.

The High Line gets a lot of attention, but it is one of many examples of officials, advocates, and community leaders joining together to transform out-of-use infrastructure into public space.

Beyond the High Line is a new series of free public talks bringing some of the country’s most innovative thinkers to the High Line to present their big ideas and talk about the latest updates. The series debuted in June, with a talk about Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail (WATCH THE VIDEO), and continues on Monday, July 23 with a focus on new and revived public spaces in Detroit. Join us to talk with leaders from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the Roosevelt Park Conservancy, and enjoy a reception with Coney Dogs and Motown music.

Follow us after the jump for photos and video from the Chicago talk.

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