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FHL Newsletter
DECEMBER 3 , 2001


Friday November 30, 2001, Friends of the High Line, joined by the New York City Council and its Speaker, Peter Vallone, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and six individual plaintiffs who are either residents or business owners in Western Manhattan, filed an Article 78 proceeding and a motion for a preliminary injunction against the City of New York, seeking to restrain the City from entering into an agreement for the demolition of the High Line. Friends of the High Line has received strong support for advocating an alternative to demolition of the historic rail structure – redeveloping the High Line into a 1.45-mile, 6.7-acre elevated public open space.

It is with regret that we file this lawsuit against the City. It is our preferred goal to work in harmony with the City towards the reuse of the High Line as a recreational amenity and a catalyst for economic development. Our actions were forced by the City's failure to follow the mandates of the New York City Charter, which requires the orderly review of land use initiatives through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). ULURP was created so that the Council, the Borough President, and affected communities would have a substantial role in formulating and approving land-use decisions. Under the City Charter, one of the conditions requiring ULURP is a change to the official City Map. Demolition of the High Line would require a change to the City Map, which clearly includes the High Line.

ULURP would require the City of New York, as the applicant, to satisfy certain environmental assessment standards and submit its proposal to a review by Manhattan Community Boards 2 and 4, the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of City Planning and ultimately, the City Council. The process, which takes approximately 205 days, provides significant opportunities for public participation and comment.

The City has made no attempt to initiate any community review process, despite widespread public support for a plan to convert the High Line to a public open space, including support from Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Representative Jerrold Nadler. In July 2001, the New York City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the City to preserve and reuse the High Line as an open public space. In November 2001, Community Board 4 issued a letter to the City asking that their role in the community review process not be bypassed, and Community Board 2 adopted a resolution calling for full public review.

Demolition of the High Line would fundamentally change the character of three neighborhoods, require 22 street closings over an 18-month period, disrupt thousands of residents and businesses with noise, dust, and vibration, threaten the structural integrity of neighboring buildings, and forever eliminate the possibility of converting the High Line into an open, public promenade for the enjoyment of the entire city.

The preservation and reuse of the High Line is possible through the federally sanctioned National Trails Systems Act "rail-banking" program, which allows out-of-use rail corridors to be transformed into public trails. Since its establishment, more than 11,000 miles of rail-trails have been created in the U.S., with more than 18,000 miles currently in development.

Robert Hammond

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