This spring, after decades of grassroots organization, community sweat, design meetings, and construction, the newest section of the High Line—the Spur—opens to the public that worked so hard for its preservation. Located above the intersection of 30th Street and 10th Avenue, the Spur becomes the visual gateway to the High Line from Chelsea to the south, Hell’s Kitchen to the north, and from Penn Station and the future expansion of Midtown from the east.
The Spur design engages with the surrounding urban context with a “less is more” approach that emphasizes natural planting reminiscent of the original self-sown landscape and the rough beauty of the High Line structure and rail tracks.
Built in the 1930s, this extension connected with the USPS Morgan Processing and Distribution Center, an avenue-long behemoth of a building that still stands on 30th Street between 9th and 10th avenues. The Morgan building and the High Line were built at the same time to work with each other. This direct connection allowed freight trains to carry mail and packages to and from the upper-floor loading docks of the building.
Once trucking became a more efficient way to deliver goods, the train service declined and by the early 1980s the tracks fell into disuse. The structure remained threatened by demolition until 1999, when Robert Hammond and Joshua David began lobbying to preserve and revitalize the High Line under their newly formed advocacy group Friends of the High Line.
After five years of hard work, the first two sections were saved in 2004, with the first part of the park opening to the public in 2009. However, the rail yards portion, which includes the Spur, remained in jeopardy. In 2008, organized by Friends of the High Line, more than 200 people rallied at the Midtown Red Cross in favor of preserving the Spur. At the time, even though construction was underway on the first two sections of the High Line between Gansevoort St. and 20th Street, the fate of the High Line at the Rail Yards was still undetermined. Supporters wore red “Save the Spur” T-shirts and held signs during a presentation by Related Companies, the designated developer. Almost every speaker voiced strong support for preserving the entire High Line at this section, including US Representative Jerrold Nadler and New York State Assembly member Dick Gottfried.
In 2012, thanks the vision and commitment of a dedicated community of leaders, the City acquired the Rail Yards section of the High Line and announced that this section of the structure would officially be saved.
The Spur unfolds in three parts—the Coach Passage, a planted threshold, and a large open piazza. The Passage is a cathedral-like space, passing underneath and through the new Hudson Yards tower at 10th Avenue and 30th Street. Primarily a hardscape, a series of planted balconies stretch out from under the building to provide visitors views of the sky, the surrounding buildings from a unique vantage point, and the other sections of the High Line over 30th Street. The iconic rails and benches of the High Line transition visitors from the walkway to the focal point of the Spur.
Once through the Passage, visitors are greeted by two large raised planters, rising like hills from the deck. These create a dramatic planted threshold into the Spur and provide a lush wall of greenery after coming through the Coach Passage or from the streets of Midtown below.
Finally, visitors arrive to an open piazza with panoramic views up and down 10th Avenue and 30th Street. The piazza retains the existing rail tracks that once led to the post office, reminding visitors of the history of the structure. Thanks to a series of cascading wooden seating steps on the east and west sides of the Spur, this new section provides critical space for hosting more people at our public programs and art events. The Spur is the largest open-air space on the High Line and will accommodate a range of public programs not yet seen on the park.
The Plinth, a dedicated space on the Spur for presenting monumental works of art, completes the piazza. The Plinth is the first space on the park designed for art to be in concert with the unique design of the park, whereas the rest of the art program is installed in response to the High Line’s plantings and architecture. The Plinth offers viewers a chance to witness large-scale sculptures in the round and to experience the work from the ground as well as on the Plinth itself. Simone Leigh’s Brick House, a tribute to Black female beauty, initiates the series of rotating Plinth commissions.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the High Line without the nature. With a Northeastern woodland palette as inspiration, the Spur plantings comprise 8,500 perennials, 69 trees and shrubs (4 new species for the High Line), and the largest planting beds on the High Line.
Hanging gardens at the balconies along the Coach Passage include grasses, perennials, and a mix of Clematis and Wisteria vines. The raised planters at the threshold include hackberry, sweetgum, black tupelo, strawberry bush, sassafras, and orangebark stewartia trees. And the flowering beds at the piazza edges include a mix of grasses and perennials punctuated by dwarf fothergilla shrubs.
With new flora, a chance to engage with the cityscape and fellow visitors, opportunities for expanded public programs, and groundbreaking artwork on the Plinth, the Spur stays true to its name: active, animate, and full of spark.
Save the date for the debut of this newest section of the High Line, opening spring 2019.
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Coach Passage is named in honor of the Coach Foundation.
TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.
Major support for the High Line Plinth comes from the High Line Plinth Committee, a group of contemporary art leaders committed to realizing major commissions and engaging in the public success of the Plinth. The High Line Plinth Committee includes: Shelley Fox Aarons, Fairfax Dorn, Andrew Hall, Hermine Riegerl Heller, J. Tomilson Hill, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Donald R. Mullen, Jr., Mario J. Palumbo, Jr., and one anonymous donor.