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FHL Newsletter
FEBRUARY 14, 2002


HIGH LINE UPDATE
Recently you may have received a mailing from Chelsea Property Owners (CPO) suggesting that the High Line is structurally unsound. Friends of the High Line is compelled to address this misleading mailing.

Below, we discuss the important issue of structural stability, but we also invite you to look at "Reclaiming the High Line," the just- published reuse study produced by The Design Trust for Public Space with Friends of the High Line. In addition to outlining an exciting vision for a 6.7, 1.45-acre public walkway atop the High Line, the study contains a balanced assessment of the High Line's structural condition, acknowledging the its maintenance and cosmetic needs at the same time that it asserts its fundamental structural integrity. The study is available at Urban Center Books, 457 Madison Avenue (51st Street) and next week will be available through our website, www.thehighline.org

THE HIGH LINE ELEVATED RAIL VIADUCT IS FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND.
  • The High Line was built to carry multiple, fully-loaded freight trains, pulling carloads of meat and mail with locomotives that weighed 242,000 pounds each.
  • It is considered "overbuilt" in terms of structural reinforcements by many architects and engineers who examined it.
  • In the past three years, two engineering firms have attested to the structure's basic integrity: DeSimone Consulting Engineers, and Hardesty and Hanover.
  • No property damage or injury suits have ever been filed against, CSX, the owners of the High Line.
  • There are no outstanding Department of Buildings violations against the structure.
  • In 1999, CSX spent nearly $1 million repairing the structure to ensure community safety.
STEPHEN DESIMONE'S ASSESSMENT OF THE HIGH LINE WAS FAIR AND REASONABLE.
Stephen DeSimone, a respected, Columbia University-trained engineer whose firm has been involved in the restoration of the St. Regis Hotel and the New Amsterdam Theater, was conservative and fair in his assessment of the High Line, commissioned by Friends of the High Line. DeSimone reiterated Hardesty and Hanover's 1999 findings that the steel structure of the High Line had experienced minor deterioration but was functioning as designed. He stated that the weight that the High Line would support as a walkway would be a fraction of what it supported as an active freight line, and that there was no structural reason that it could not support that weight. He fairly pointed to the structure's maintenance needs— significant repairs to approximately 30 percent of the High Line's concrete deck slab--just as clearly as he pointed to its fundamental structural integrity. He rationally concluded that while repairs were needed, they in no way posed an insurmountable challenge to the structure's restoration and planned reuse.

THE $12-25 MILLION THAT IT WILL COST TO TEAR DOWN THE HIGH LINE WOULD BE BETTER SPENT ON MAINTENANCE THAN ON DEMOLITION.
The $12-25 million it will cost to tear down the structure could fund a total rehabilitation of the structure with far less detrimental effects to the community than an 18-month-long, noisy, dirty, traffic-causing, demolition process. Demolition has the potential to damage neighboring buildings and will permanently remove the potential for a new 6.7 acre public open space from our neighborhood.

CHELSEA CARWASH: AN EXAMPLE OF THE HIGH LINE'S STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY AND INNOVATIVE REDEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL.
We invite you to take a look at the Chelsea Carwash and Gas Station, at the corner of 14th Street and 10th Avenue. With the permission of the railroad, this business has repaired and maintained the underside of the High Line in an exemplary manner, illustrating both the High Line's structural integrity and the potential for innovatively designed businesses beneath the High Line. Friends of the High Line is not an anti-development or an anti-business group. We want to help owners of property crossed by the High Line take advantage of the unique opportunities this structure offers, both above and below.

COMMUNITY REVIEW IS CALLED FOR.
In its push to demolish the High Line, CPO lobbied the Giuliani administration, through former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, to commit to a demolition agreement outside the mandated ULURP review process. ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) allows community boards, the City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and the Department of City Planning, to review plans major land use initiatives. FHL believes ULURP is called before the High Line is torn down. So does the City Council and the Borough President, who joined Friends of the High Line in an Article 78 challenge to CPO's attempt to bypass ULURP.

HIGH LINE DEMOLITION WOULD NEGATIVELY IMPACT OUR COMMUNITY.
Besides permanently destroying New York City's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a new, 6.7-acre open space connecting three West Side neighborhoods, demolition of the High Line would have devastating effects. Excessive vibration from demolition can cause cracking of structural elements, which may affect the integrity of nearby buildings. The constant noise and dust will contribute to a reduced quality of life. Demolition will disrupt and possibly obstruct the traffic flow. This disruption could last the 18 months.

WHAT IS CPO?
In their recent mailing, CPO adopted the language of a civic- minded "group of concerned businesses and citizens," but the group is led by owners of large parcels of real estate in Chelsea and the Meat Packing District who stand to greatly profit from the demolition of the High Line. Their letterhead boasts a Manhattan address on Eighth Avenue, but their legal "principle place of business" just few months ago was the Newark, New Jersey, offices of Edison Mini-Storage. Edison's owner Jerome Gottesman owns several large developable properties in West Chelsea and has been trying to tear down the High Line since just a few years after the trains stopped running on it. His last development proposal was for a FedEx distribution center at 10th Avenue and 17th Street.

FRIENDS OF THE HIGH LINE AND MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
During our recent mayoral election, all six candidates supported the efforts of Friends of the High Line. The strongest support came from then-candidate Michael R. Bloomberg, who included the High Line's reuse in his blueprint for parks policy. After his election, Bloomberg wrote a supporting foreword to "Reclaiming the High Line." In it he said, "I look forward to working with Friends of the High Line and other interested parties to develop a feasible reuse scenario." Since Mayor Bloomberg took office, Friends of the High Line has met with members of his administration, who are now evaluating the best possible future for the High Line in a careful and thoughtful manner.

The future of High Line, with its potential to become a public open space that links the communities of South Hell's Kitchen, West Chelsea, and the Meat Packing District, is one of the most exciting urban planning issues being examined today. Rational and open- minded discussions about the High Line's maintenance requirements should be an important part of the community-driven planning process for structure's public reuse. We hope that you will be an active participant as planning for the High Line goes forward.

Feel free to email us with any questions or comments at:
info@thehighline.org

Robert and Joshua


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