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FHL has been working at the federal level to ensure that the High Line is preserved for reuse as an elevated greenway.

In August, FHL petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, DC, asserting that a 1992 ruling that opened the door to demolition proposals for the High Line is “outdated and invalid” and must be reconsidered. FHL’s legal team at Covington & Burling, in Washington, DC, wrote an extremely strong and well-argued filing. If it succeeds in getting the 1992 ICC decision reopened, we will have scored a major win in our efforts to preserve the High Line for pedestrian reuse. [for more information, click here]

The urgency of our petition was underscored by a filing, several days earlier, by demolition proponents. They requested STB approval of their contested demolition proposal, even though that proposal is missing crucial signatures and still being challenged in State courts because of its attempt to skirt required public review procedures.

In today’s New York Times (8/29/02), David W. Dunlap writes about FHL’s use of images and graphic design to convey the High Line’s beauty and the need for its preservation to the widest possible audience. The images, which include a photograph by Joel Sternfeld and an illustration created by Greenberg Kingsley/NYC for our July benefit, are only in the printed version of the New York Times, but you can read the text on-line.

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As is so often the case, the work that Dunlap writes about has all been donated to Friends of the High Line by individuals and firms of great talent who recognize the vital importance of this project. Special thanks to photographer Joel Sternfeld, Karen Greenberg and Mark Kingsley, of Greenberg Kingsley/NYC; and Paula Scher, of Pentagram, for creating and donating the work discussed in today’s article.

FHL is very excited about developing plans for its upcoming international design competition. Architects, landscape architects, artists, designers, and community members will be invited to create visionary reuse plans for the High Line, taking advantage of the growing body of knowledge FHL has assembled about the structure. FHL has hired Reed Kroloff, formerly the editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine, as the competition advisor. The competition will begin this winter, with submissions due late winter/early spring, and an exhibition of entries and winners scheduled for May 2003.

Earlier this year, FHL received a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts for the design competition, but we still require matching funds as well as a major sponsor for the exhibition, which will be a high-profile event held in a prominent Manhattan location. If you can help secure a major sponsor, please get in touch with Robert Hammond at

FHL has been actively defending the public’s right to determine what happens to the High Line.

In July, demolition proponents appealed FHL’s court victory of March 2002, in which Honorable Justice Diane A. Lebedeff of the Supreme Court of the State of New York found that controversial plans to demolish the High Line were “undertaken in violation of ‘lawful procedure’ and [were] and ‘error of law.’”

Responding to the appeal in early August, FHL, in partnership with the New York City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and six Chelsea residents and businessowners, filed a powerful opposition brief asserting that Justice Lebedeff’s ruling was reasonable and appropriate when it found that demolition plans were required to go through ULURP, a City-Charter public review process. The brief was written by counsel at Emery Cuti Brinckerhoff & Abady, the firm that secured our victory in March. Court arguments are scheduled for October. A decision is expected sometime this winter. We are optimistic that the March court win will withstand appeal and that FHL can stop attempts by demolition proponents to skirt sensible, mandatory public review.

In late July, Channel 13 WNET in New York featured spectacular new footage of the High Line’s upper deck, as well as rarely seen views of the High Line from neighboring rooftops, on the program, “New York Voices.” The segment was called “A World Above.” It featured interviews with photographer Joel Sternfeld and FHL co-founder Joshua David and was produced by Suzanne Glickstein. It will be re-broadcast on Channel 13 WNET in New York on September 20 at 10:30 pm; September 25 at 1:30 am; and October 11 at 10:30 pm. It can also be viewed on streaming video. Go to:

On Thursday, August 22, the Wall Street Journal published a very supportive article by Philip Connors about the High Line and its reuse potential. To see the full text, go to: “Text: Wall Street Journal Article

Group Asserts Ten-Year-Old Federal Ruling Is No Longer Valid And Must Be Reopened

Demolition Proponents Move to Gain Federal Approval of Unsigned Agreement

August 19, 2002 – On Friday, August 16, 2002, advocates for the preservation and reuse of the High Line, a historic elevated rail structure on the West Side of Manhattan, petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, DC, asserting that a 1992 ruling that opened the door to demolition proposals for the High Line is "outdated and invalid" and must be reconsidered.

"Ten years later, the fundamental arguments beneath the 1992 ruling no longer make any sense," said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line (FHL), a non-profit, community-based group working to transform the out-of-use rail structure into an elevated walkway through the federally sanctioned rail-banking program. "Our current understanding of the High Line's historical significance and the real economic potential of reusing the structure were not accurately predicted 1992. New reviews are clearly demanded."

The urgency of Friends of the High Line's petition was underscored by a federal filing on August 14 by demolition proponents requesting STB approval of contested demolition plans. The petitioners were Chelsea Property Owners (CPO), a group of private landholders led by a New Jersey-based real estate company, Edison Properties. The proposal for which CPO requested approval is missing crucial signatures, was found to be "undertaken in violation of lawful procedure and was an error of law," by a New York State Supreme Court justice in March, 2002, and is still being contested at the appellate court level.

"To let a priceless resource like the High Line be destroyed on the basis of a clearly outdated ruling would be a travesty of justice," said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a high-ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who represents the West Side neighborhood through which the High Line runs. "The High Line is part of an irreplaceable transportation corridor that has served our community for more than six generations. We cannot allow such a valuable and historic component of our national rail system to be dismantled–especially when the federal rail-banking program encourages the preservation and continued use of these corridors for the greater public good. Both the economy and the essence of the surrounding neighborhood have greatly changed in the past ten years."

A conditional abandonment order, which would permit demolition of the High Line if a specific set of financial and indemnity conditions are met, was issued in 1992 by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), a federal body that has since been replaced by the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The STB has the final authority to approve or reject any proposals regarding the future of the High Line, including future applications for Interim Trail Use, or rail-banking, for the structure.

Friends of the High Line's filing states that "changed circumstances and new evidence" require the STB to "start over" in evaluating the negative effects of potential demolition. It cites a changed understanding of the High Line's historic significance, which is now recognized by leading architectural historians as being eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It argues that there has been a major "economic and cultural revival" of the High Line neighborhood and "a massive shift in public opinion" towards support for preservation and reuse of the structure, and it contends that because viable reuse proposals now exist for the High Line, "demolition would pollute a vibrant community and deprive it of a precious resource and valuable opportunity." It concludes that the "ICC's assumptions lie in ruins" and that "the Board should and must reopen its 1992 Abandonment Decision…."

"The STB certainly must reexamine the historic value of the High Line, " said Scott Heyl, president of the Preservation League of New York State, which included the High Line in its 2002 "Seven to Save" list of the State's most important, threatened historic properties. "Today this unique industrial structure is widely acknowledged to be a rare, important, historic icon. To permit its demolition, and at the same time squander a singular chance to create new parkland, would be a tragic loss for the State and City."

Public support for reuse of the High Line as an elevated greenway has soared in recent months. The New York City Council unanimously voted its support for preserving and reusing the High Line in 2001, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg supported the concept in Reclaiming the High Line, a reuse study published in February 2002. In April 2002, Mayor Bloomberg announced a feasibility study for the walkway proposal. The study, which includes a structural analysis, cost estimates, and projections of public benefits to be derived from adaptive reuse, is expected to finish in mid-September.

New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a leading supporter of the High Line walkway plan, said, "Friends of the High Line's filing is an essential step forward in one of the most innovative urban planning initiatives this city has ever seen. By dynamically linking historic preservation, open-space creation, and economic development, converting the High Line will serve our city for years to come. It's the kind of illustrious vision that the world expects from New York and that our residents deserve."

In April 2002, Honorable Justice Diane A. Lebedeff of the Supreme Court of the State of New York found that CPO's plan to demolish the High Line was undertaken in violation of lawful procedure and was an error of law." In her ruling, Justice Lebedeff affirmed the arguments of FHL, the New York City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and six Chelsea residents and business owners, that demolition plans had unlawfully skirted ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a City Charter-mandated public review process. The decision is currently on appeal, with court arguments expected this fall.

"This small group of self-interested speculators have repeatedly used back-room procedures in their attempt to rob New Yorkers of this resource," said Hammond. "They tried to sneak through a demolition agreement right before Christmas, and now, in the dog days of summer, they try to get a federal stamp of approval for the agreement, which was created in violation of lawful procedure and is missing essential signatures. As a community-based group deeply concerned with historic preservation, open-space creation, and the economic health of our neighborhood, it's FHL's duty to defend the public's right to reclaim a monumental structure its tax dollars helped build."

The High Line was erected in the 1930s as part of the $175 million West Side Improvement Project. Trains stopped running on it in 1980. It is currently 1.45 miles long and has 6.7 acres of open space atop its elevated rail bed. The National Trails Systems Act of 1983 permits its out-of-use rail easement to be converted to a public trail. Similar rails-to-trails initiatives have created over 11,000 miles of rail-trails nationwide.

Friends of the High Line formed in 1999 with the mission of converting the High Line to an elevated walkway. In February 2002, FHL released Reclaiming the High Line, the first reuse study for the structure, which was conducted with the Design Trust for Public Space and published by AOL Time Warner. The group is now conducting its part of the City-led feasibility study, due mid-September. In addition, they are preparing the launch of an international design competition, which will begin this winter.

In July 2002, FHL held its second annual summer benefit, which was chaired by Edward Norton and Martha Stewart and attended by Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Danny DeVito, Christopher Meloni, and numerous artists, architects, community members, and elected officials. Efforts to preserve and reuse the High Line as an elevated walkway are supported by, among others, New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, City Council Member Christine Quinn, Representative Jerrold Nadler, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, State Senator Thomas Duane, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried.

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In the Clerestory Hall of
At the Starrett-Lehigh Building
601 West 26th Street, 9th floor

July 10, 2002
Cocktails 7:00 PM
Dinner 8:00 PM
Tickets start at $500

Notice: The Drinking and Dancing event ($150 tickets) after the dinner had to be rescheduled to the fall due to changes in the availability of the space.

Get more information about the event. Purchase tickets for the event.

Attend an important Community Input Session
Wednesday, June 26; 7:00 – 10:00 PM
The O'Henry Learning Center
333 West 17th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenues

Friends of the High Line urges all members of the communities through which the High Line runs to attend this important community input session. Presenters will include representatives from Hamilton Rabinovitz & Alschuler, Beyer Blinder Belle, and Gary Edward Handel & Associates, who will brief attendees about the progress of FHL's feasibility study, which is currently being conducted for the Bloomberg administration. Your wishes and concerns for the future of your neighborhood can affect the shape of this study, as well as future plans for the High Line, if you share them with us at this crucial moment. We hope you'll join us and that you'll encourage your neighbors, colleagues, and friends to attend. RSVP at; or 212-228-6947.