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High Line Festival

High Line: Behind the scenes

What does it takes to turn a stretch of land from overgrown weed patch to beautiful High Line? Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the Parks & Recreation Department, tells us.


Step 1: “Saving it from demolition. During most of the Giuliani Administration, the plan was to tear down the High Line because it was considered an impediment to development. “It’s sort of ironic that now it’s considered a magnet for development.”


Step 2: “Getting the money together. It will cost an estimated $160-180 million for the whole project. The hope is to raise $50 million of private money and a fair amount of federal funds.”

Step 3: Structure survey and removal. The railroad bed has to be completely stripped, including the metal rails, wooden ties and stone ballast (all the gravel under the rails). Then all the windblown dust and sand is also removed right down to the concrete bathtub underlying the whole 1.5-mile long structure. “They are saving a lot of the tracks to maybe put back in place for some kind of toy train for kids to ride.”

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Step 4: “Site Prep. This is the stage currently underway along Phase 1 (Gansevoort Street to 20th). It includes stripping all the old lead paint before reinforcing the structural supports and replacing steel rivets and reinforcing the concrete. “This structure used to be able to be able to hold two fully-loaded freight trains. They built it like a battleship. It must be one of the strongest structures in the city.” After the reinforcements are complete, the whole structure is being repainted a green color.”

Step 5: “Installation of the parklands. This should be complete by summer, 2008. It includes landscaping and laying down concrete decks to simulate train tracks. “It will be quite an industrial feel of steel and concrete. You’ll actually be walking on concrete planks between this wild looking landscape.” Many of the seeds being planted are those collected from the wild growing plants that were up there before restoration began, so that the “accidental landscape” will be recreated. All this is to be repeated on Phase 2, which is expected to open in the fall, 2009.”


Plus:

  • High fidelity: David Bowie curates the High Line Festival, recruiting pals Ricky Gervais, Arcade Fire and more to benefit the elevated park (which the fest isn’t on or, at times, even near). Our exclusive behind-the-scenes preview explains it all.
  • Flipping the bird: Performance artist Laurie Anderson gets “weird” again, filling another show with feathered friends. A David Bowie interview.
  • Pussy galore: The bizarre chanteuse Meow Meow gets ready to pounce.
  • Cyberspace oddity: Exclusive! Bowie interviews Ricky Gervais by e-mail—sort of!
  • Must : Ziggy zeroes in on ten Spanish-language flicks.
  • Keeping track: More highlights of the High Line Festival.
  • High Line: Behind the scenes: What does it takes to turn a stretch of land from overgrown weed patch to beautiful High Line? Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the Parks & Recreation Department, tells us.
  • The Time Out New York High Line Guide: Your ultimate resource for swank eats, stylin' stores and everything under the trestle.

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