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High-fives for new park

The future of Manhattan's next park is up in the air.

With a host of politicians and a pair of tenacious dreamers at his side, Mayor Bloomberg broke ground yesterday on the High Line, the old elevated rail line being converted into a 6.7-acre park on the West Side.

"This is going to be a magical experience for everybody," Bloomberg said, standing on a makeshift stage on the trestle, 30 feet above 14th St., near 10th Ave. "It's just another example of the vitality and ingenuity of New Yorkers."

Bloomberg recalled first hearing about the project in 2001 from Josh David and Robert Hammond, the founders of Friends of the High Line who came up with the idea.

"I said, 'Well, it sounds strange. We should do it,'" Bloomberg recalled as he shared the stage with elected leaders, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton.

Friends of the High Line battled to spare the rail line from the wrecking ball during the Rudy Giuliani administration. With Bloomberg behind the idea, the city took over the property last fall. Yesterday's ceremony starts a lengthy and expensive site preparation process in which the old rails will be ripped up and the steel bulwark inspected and then stripped of lead paint.

Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who heads up the city's economic development team, said the High Line is transforming from eyesore to attraction.

Local property owners, he said, "urged the city to tear down this structure, said it was a public menace on the verge of collapse.

"Today, there are 27 major developments planned in the High Line area, designed by some of the greatest architects in the world."

Originally published on April 11, 2006

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