Manhattan Week: Residents Preserve, Transform High Line Into Vibrant Park
Seated three stories above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, the rail line turned park known as the High Line is today’s focus in NY1’s look back at 20 years of reporting the Manhattan borough beat. NY1’s Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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It was a working rail line until the 1980s. Now, nearly 30 years later, the elevated steel structure that is the High Line has been resurrected as a park in the sky, flourishing with visitors looking for a unique urban experience.
Not long ago, the High Line was just a field of dreams for its founders. Area residents David and Robert Hammond founded the not-for-profit Friends of the High Line in 1999 to preserve and transform the abandoned, elevated rail line on Manhattan’s West Side into a pedestrian park.
“I actually fell in love with that rusty hulk of steel," said Joshua David, a co-founder of Friends of the High Line. "I think a lot of people liked that industrial relic, a reminder of what this neighborhood used to be.”
With the support of the community, city and a number of celebrities, the first section opened a decade later in June 2009, garnering much fanfare. It was deemed an unbridled success.
It was projected that the park would receive 300,000 visitors that first year. They ended up attracting three million, 10 times the expected number.
The High Line, which starts at the Meatpacking District and extends through Chelsea, attracts more than park-goers to the neighborhood. The urban oasis lures in would-be residents as well.
“The High Line brought a lot of people into the area and gave it a real focus as an amenity," said Richard Grossman, the executive director of sales of Downtown for Halstead Property Company. "A lot of developers who came into the area building new buildings used it as an attribute.”
But with the highs come the lows for local residents.
“For a certain number of months, the High Line is a real magnet for people," says Corey Johnson, the chairman of Community Board 4 for Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. "With that comes some daily annoyances for the folks that live close to it and are in the path of the people that come to and from the High Line.”
With the final phase of the High Line slated to open just north of Chelsea between 30th and 34th Streets in 2014, the millions flocking to the area may be the new reality for the neighborhood.