DECKS, MARSHES & TREES SET FOR HIGH LINE
By TOM TOPOUSIS
November 12, 2007 -- High above the streets of Chelsea, construction crews are turning what was once an eyesore slated for demolition into what will become one of the crown jewels of the city's park system - the urban wonderland that will be High Line Park.
The vision of the High Line's planners, as illustrated in artist renderings provided to The Post, is set to take shape as the crews have cleared the top of the old railroad trestle to make way for fields of wild grasses, "wetland," meandering pathways and sun decks.
Park visitors will be able to descend into the structure, into what will be called the 10th Avenue Square, and look out, giving them a sense of being suspended over the avenue near 17th Street.
"We think this is one of the most extraordinary parts of Section One," said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, the organization that spearheaded the drive to transform the trestle.
Like many of the features planned for the High Line, 10th Avenue Square is being funded by a private contribution. Supporters made a $4 million donation to pay for the square.
Another rendering of the High Line's features shows the Sun Deck, a set of benches rising above an artificial wetland carved into the trestle at 14th Street.
The Sun Deck is also being built with private donations, in this case $5 million from media mogul Barry Diller and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
Much of the project has been designed to evoke the "accidental landscape" of grasses, flowers and trees that sprang up atop the trestle in the more than 20 years since freight trains stopped rumbling down the tracks, said city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
"It is, in a word, unique," Benepe said of the project.
"The only other park in the world that comes close is in Paris, where an abandoned rail line was turned into a park."
The first half of the 11/2-mile-long park is on track to open in the fall of 2008, running from Gansevoort to 20th streets. The second phase up to 30th Street will open in 2009.
"When we started this, I thought it would take 20 or 30 years," Hammond said of the drive to save the High Line. "And now it's going to take 10 years."
Hammond credits the support of public officials and private benefactors.
"We were one court decision away from its destruction," he recalled of the bid by property owners to raze the structure.
City, state and federal funding accounts for $120 million of the project's $170 million price tag. So far, Friends of the High Line has managed to raise $20 million toward the balance.
In order to be able to complete the second section of the park, Hammond said, the group will have to raise an additional $30 million.