Chelsea: The Greening of the High Line
March 10, 2004By Andrea Lynn
In the seven decades since it was built, the High
Line, which is now an elevated railroad to nowhere,
has seen life as an escape route over "Death Avenue,"
as an eye-sore, and finally -- as a potential
The concrete and steel railroad tracks snake through
some 1.5 miles of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District
along the Hudson River. Unused, barely noticed,
covered with wildflowers and grass, the High Line
could soon become a unique seven-acre park.
The High Line came into existence during an era when
trains formed the backbone of the city's manufacturing
economy. As many as 50 freight trains a day traveled
along the west side of Manhattan, creating a hazard
for pedestrians, which earned Tenth Avenue the
nickname of Death Avenue. To reduce this traffic, and
increase efficiency, the railroad companies, with
support from both state and city, created an elevated
railroad from 34th Street to Spring Street.
The railroad lost its appeal with the rise of the
interstate trucking industry. In 1980, it carried its
final train. filled with frozen turkeys. By the 1990s,
only a short portion of the elevated tracks - the part
now dubbed the High Line - remained.
That is when the Chelsea Property Owners Association
first started lobbying for its destruction. The
association's members own property either directly below or
straddling the tracks. They argue that the
deteriorating structure poses a danger to community
residents, threatens the 22 buildings that sit beneath
it, decreases neighborhood property values and stifles
development of the surrounding area.
The Giuliani administration heeded the concerns and
began to take steps to demolish the structure. But
before the first track could be removed, a new group
formed, calling itself Friends of the High Line, and went to
court stop the demolition.
Friends of the High Line and its allies say residents
of the area desperately need recreational space. The
High Line offers "open space and a unique structure,
even for New York, that if removed can never be
replaced," says Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of
Park advocates deny that the structure poses a threat
to the community. In 2002, the group hired Stephen
DeSimone, a structural engineer, who reported that the
High Line remains fundamentally sound. Tearing down
the structure, the friends say, could cost as much as
$25 million, will take 18 months and be noisy, dirty
and disruptive. In its suit, the group claimed that
city procedures require that the City Council, borough
president and area community boards review such a plan
and that no such review had been conducted. The court
agreed and halted destruction of the High Line.
In January, the state Supreme Court's Appellate
Division reversed the lower court. But while that court ruling allows
demolition, it does not require it. And so, it is
somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory for the property owners,
since the Bloomberg administration strongly supports
keeping the High Line.
In fact, it has already received a permit from the
U.S. Department of Transportation to begin developing
plans to turn the deserted structure into a public
The Bloomberg administration and Friends of the High
Line envision the transformation of the High Line, the
width of two trains, into a recreational promenade
similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris, a walkway on a restored elevated rail
viaduct. Fragrant gardens line the three-mile track in
France, while boutiques and cafes occupy the arches
beneath the rail bed.
But the supporters of the High Line want to make it
uniquely New York, and to that end, last year, they
held a competition. Among the 720 entries from 36
countries, was a plan for a heavily landscaped walk,
another for an aerial monorail floating above a meadow
of wildflower and a third for a mile-long series of
The proposals did not have to be realistic, Robert
Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line and a
member of the jury, told Architecture Week. "They
were required to be thought provoking, and they
were - and as exciting and unexpected as the High Line
itself," he said. Friends of the High Line hopes to
send all the ideas to design teams.
The city and Friends of the High Line have started the
process to select a designer for the High Line and hope to
have made their choice by sometime this summer.
Hammond has estimated it could cost as much as $60
restore the ailing concrete deck slab and turn it into
seven acres of parkland. City Council Speaker Gifford
Miller has pledged his support for the High Line
project by committing $15.75 million in city funds
over the next three years. Federal funding and private
donations would make up most of the remainder.
New York is building new parks and restoring old ones -- at a time of budget cutbacks and staff reductions. Anne Schwartz reports on how this has been possible.
Bye Bye to Car Alarms?
July 25, 2003Pols Weigh Car-Alarm Ban
New York Post
By Frankie Edozien
There was a lot of noise on June 11 at City Hall over a bill to end the most annoying sound in New York - the constant whine of car alarms.
A hearing on banning the pesky alarms elicited a chorus of supporters at a City Council hearing, but got no backing from the Bloomberg administration.
Roiled by constituents complaining about late-night alarm attacks, Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan) is pushing legislation to prohibit any installations of audible car alarms except by the manufacturer. Aaron Naparstek, a project coordinator at Transportation Alternatives, told the council's Committee on Environmental Protection that noisy alarms are a public health menace.
"[This] type of noise ... is linked to costly public health problems, lost productivity, decreased property value, and diminished quality-of-life," he charged.
The NYPD is opposing the proposed ban on alarms.
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ALL DISTRICT 3 MAJOR ISSUES|
Chelsea: The Greening of the High Line
(Mar 10, 2004)
Bye Bye to Car Alarms?
(Jul 25, 2003)