Long before the High Line was a forgone conclusion, Friends of the High Line staff learned a valuable lesson about the power of programming from our very first landlords. In 2002, Josh David and Robert Hammond opened the first Friends of the High Line offices in the Hudson Guild. Offering a combination of cultural and educational programming and social services, the Guild is a vital hub for local residents, and builds lasting relationships throughout their lives.
Over the years, the Guild has served as a teacher and partner in responsive programming that welcomes local residents and serves their needs and interests. In 2006, Friends of the High Line’s former Special Projects Manager, Meredith Taylor, created our first after-school program with children from the Guild. In 2009, former Director of Public Programs, Education & Community Engagement, Danya Sherman, worked with the Guild to hire teens from their PowerUP program as our first Youth Corps staff. And in 2010, Danya’s collaboration with Guild staff led to the creation of ¡Arriba!, a live Latin music night that has attracted more than 6,500 people over the last four years.
Early collaborations with the Hudson Guild taught us that stakeholders provide key insights into their communities. Before you create programs, it is important to think about whom you would like to welcome, and invite those voices to the planning table. Phenomenal school principals including Brooke Jackson from Lab School for Collaborative Studies, Linore Lindy from Chelsea Prep (P.S. 33), and Robert Bender and Assistant Principal Karen Carmichael from P.S. 11 have introduced us to master teachers who have given us important insight into school programs, enriching the experience of the 14,388 adults and students who have participated in our Education programs since 2009. In 2011, independent consultant Lisa Yancey helped us to interview more than 800 residents of Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea Houses, two NYCHA complexes close to the park. Their input lead to the creation of new initiatives, including our High Line Teen programs.
Since 2012, our Community Engagement Manager, Erycka Montoya-Pérez, has forged lasting relationships with local leaders who have challenged us to share more: of our space, our resources, and our opportunities. Friends of the High Line hires dozens of seasonal staff each year, and this year, we partnered with Workforce1 to host our first local recruitment initiative. We notified neighbors regarding open positions within the organization and our food partners, and interviewed 120 qualified applicants. Our organization also has a dedicated pool of 150 active volunteers, who generously donate their time to the park. In April, we partnered with Fulton Houses Tenant Association President Miguel Acevedo to pilot our first Neighbor Day, in which High Line volunteers, Horticulture staff, and Green Corps teens assisted local gardener Tari Stubblefield in restoring and planting a community garden. In the future, we hope to share greater ownership of this and other projects by putting the power for decision making in the hands of a group of local community leaders who will join a newly created Neighborhood Advisory Council.
We have come to believe that programming, at its best, shares the strengths of our organization with our neighbors, fosters belonging and ownership of the park, empowers and emboldens stakeholders to take action in their neighborhood, and uses programs as a tool to connect people, organizations, and experts from across the city. Since 2009, we have hosted 154,866 people in more than 2,000 programs and volunteer activities. Sometimes we have met these goals, sometimes we have fallen short, but we are grateful for the partners who have carried us to this point, and we are looking forward to growing and evolving with all of you in the coming years.