The Elevated High Line Park, New York

High Line Park, or The High Line,  is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of dilapidated New York Central Railroad called the West Side Line (Green & Letsch, 2014). In 1934, as part of the West Side Improvement Project, the High Line opened to trains, to transport meat and dairy products from the Meatpacking District to the other end of the industrial area. However, it stopped functioning in 1980. At that time, a group of property owners proposed for its demolition, but Peter Obletz, an activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court. In 1999, Friends of the High Line, which was founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, advocated for preservation and reuse of High Line as public open space, and it was considered economically rational. Therefore, the planning framework for this was begun in 2002–2003.


Exceptional Landscape-Architecture Design

As inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) Promenade plantée, a similar project in Paris completed in 1993, the High Line was then redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park. The project is a collaboration between James Corner Field Operations (an urban design, landscape architecture and public realm practice based in New York City), as project lead, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf (Netherlands-based planting designer). The first 9-blocks of the landmark park opened in spring 2009, including over 3,500 precast concrete planks for walkways and programming, 60 custom peel-up benches and the planting of 1,000 trees, over 50,000 perennials and grasses and 30,000 bulbs.  The second section of the park, which runs from 20th Street to 30th Street, opened in Spring 2011, with the final section following and ramping down to street level around the West Side Railyards.

Sustainable Practices

According to The Friends of High Line, grasses and trees that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after the trains stopped running inspired the planting designer Piet Oudolf to “keep it wild.” Nearly half of the plant species and cultivars planted on the High Line are native species to the United States, and many were produced by local growers. As an actual practice of water sensitive urban design approach, The High Line’s green roof system is designed to allow the plants to retain as much water as possible. It has porous pathways contain open joints, so water can drain between planks and water adjacent planting beds, cutting down on the amount of storm-water that runs off the site into the sewer system. There is an irrigation system installed with options for both automatic and manual watering, which water source is from the harvested rainwater, so there would be less storm-water wasted.


Praises Following the Completion of  High Line Park

This transformation of dilapidated transportation infrastructure into a viable public green space in the middle of dense urban environment, has been claimed as one of New York’s urban project best practices for so many reasons. The NewYork Architects website gave a review that “The High Line is now recognized as an important and distinctive asset to the city: an urban event operating on many scales – a new way of seeing the city, a connector to different and previously separate neighborhoods, an important green space within the local neighborhood, and a new model for the ‘greening’ of the urban environment.  In the re-imagination of this industrial relic as a unique opportunity, the High Line will be transformed by New York City into an exceptional public open space.”
High Line Park is highly regarded as a well done precedent urban park, promoting timely and relevant principles of ecological sustainability, urban regeneration and reuse and conservation over new construction, establishing not only an urban corridor for habitat, wildlife and people and provides opportunity for future links between greenways and parkways along the Hudson River; but also providing additional economic value to the surrounding neighborhoods as the New York City Deputy Mayor for Economic Development estimates that the High Line has already generated $4 billion in private investment in adjacent residential buildings, stores and hotels, as economic benefits (The NewYork Architects). This green infrastructure is also praised to have promoted spatial justice, where it becomes an epitome of political and social product. This is an example where private citizens working with the City to build and maintain something for the public at large, demonstrating how the City should interact with its citizens (Ellen Spicer, 2014).


Complete documentation of the project can also be seen in this video:


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