Tuesday's City Council hearing on the Eastern Rail Yards text amendments was a great success for Friends of the High Line.
Even though the measures the Council Committee approved did not specifically address the High Line, the overwhelming presence and passionate testimony of our supporters made it apparent that the High Line's preservation is a major community priority. Before the Committee took its final vote, the Committee Chair stated that it was clear that the High Line's preservation would need to be addressed at the next possible point in the rail yards approval process. Thanks to the Council for all their current and past support.
What comes next?
We are now faced with a critical opportunity: the next step in the rail yards development process will be the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) for the rezoning of the Western Rail Yards. ULURP is a multi-step zoning approval process requiring public input and sign-off from the Community Board, Borough President and City Council within a set timeframe. This ULURP process may begin as early as May.
The Western Rail Yards ULURP will provide a key opportunity for the City to take steps to preserve the High Line. Specifically, the City can and should take ownership of the High Line at the rail yards, as it did with the portion below 30th Street. City aquisition of the High Line requires ULURP, so it makes sense to include this action in the Western Rail Yards ULURP, which has already been calendared.
CSX Transportation, the railroad company that owns the High Line at the rail yards, has indicated willingness to donate the remainder of the High Line to the City, as they did with the rest of the structure in 2005. We are asking the City to take the necessary steps right now in including High Line Acquisition in the Western Rail Yards ULURP.
Why City Aquisition?
In short, because City Aquisition of the High Line at the rail yards would put the High Line in the hands of the public, and ensure that its future is decided by public process, instead of leaving it to the private developer. While Related has indicated plans to retain most of the High Line, there is no binding legal requirement that it be preserved-- in fact, the developer has indicated plans to tear down the spur over 10th Avenue. City Acquisition does not necessarily preserve the High Line, but it's a crucial step towards making sure the decision is made in the public interest.
As the date for the ULURP approaches, please stay tuned for more opportunities to speak out in favor of the High Line's full preservation. Our window for action may be very narrow, but it's crucial that we act now-- the future of the High Line depends on it.
In the Press
Tuesday's hearing resulted in some good press, which also serves as helpful background on this issue. From the New York Observer:
"While the bushes are blooming on the soon-to-be-opened southern section of the High Line, a battle is blossoming at City Hall over the fate of the line's northern section. The battle spawned a rally earlier this week, as activists on behalf of the park continue to demand public supervision of the line's northern spur. "
Activists Pressure Pols on Northern Turn of the High Line; It's in Related's Rail Yards
There was also a good piece in The Villager:
High Liners are spurred to action to save last third