NYT Most-emailed: The High Line’s “small town in the air”

New York Times: July 22, 2009

Today, a new accolade! For the first time, an article about the High Line made it to the “most-emailed” list on the New York Times web site.

The article, called “The High Line: A Railway Out of Manhattan”, captures the special atmosphere up on the line– “almost a small town in the air… It even inspires crusty New Yorkers to behave as if they were strolling down Main Street.”

As a park visitor explained in the article:  “Here people tend to be more friendly… Those same people, you might see them someplace else and, you know,” she broke off, raising her eyebrows, “they’re kind of stressed.”

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Walking the High Line with Joel Sternfeld

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Next weekend offers a rare opportunity to see Joel Sternfeld’s Photographs of the High Line as part of Luhring Augustine‘s booth at the ADAA Art Show 2009 at the Park Avenue Armory.

Back in 2000, in the dawning hours of Friends of the High Line, co-founders Robert Hammond and Joshua David asked noted photographer Joel Sternfeld to walk the High Line to take photographs. The pictures Joel took in the subsequent seasons chronicled the allure and natural grace of the High Line, and played a crucial role in alerting the public to the potential of what many saw from below as abandoned ruins. Adam Gopnik wrote about Joel in the May 21st, 2001 issue of the New Yorker:

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Bloomberg: High Line is “the world’s most innovative park”

Mayor Bloomberg, speaking at the April 2006 High Line Groundbreaking Ceremony

[Mayor Bloomberg, speaking at our Groundbreaking ceremony in 2006.]

In his annual State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg focused mainly on his strategy for stabilizing the city’s economy and pulling it out of recession.  The plan he outlined in today’s address at Brooklyn College focused on three main areas: job growth, quality of life, and making city agencies more efficient.  According to a draft prepared for today’s delivery [PDF, via the New York Times], the first point of the nine-point plan focuses on creating jobs by investing in infrastructure— including,  in the Mayor’s own words, “opening the first section of the world’s most innovative park, the High Line in Lower Manhattan.”

The High Line is only one of the infrastructure projects the Mayor referenced that have created “25,000 construction-related jobs” this fiscal year.

Other points in the Mayor’s job creation plan include helping small businesses by launching more Business Improvement Districts, and creating “green” jobs by improving energy efficiency in City buildings.

The Mayor also emphasized the importance of improving quality of life in New York City, pointing out that 300 new acres of parkland have been created in the city over the last seven years, and pledging to protect the park system, “a precious asset that belongs to all New Yorkers.”

Another project the mayor unveiled: his office’s new YouTube channel, where you can watch a video documentary by Ric Burns, “This is New York City,” that preceded today’s speech.

Rail Yards, High Line, West Side Highway from Above

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[Photo (c) Alex S. MacLean/Landslides Aerial Photography. Click image to enlarge]

Historical Photo: High Line Construction Cranes

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[Courtesy Mary Habstritt. Click image to enlarge]

This 1930′s shot was taken looking West along 30th Street from around 11th Avenue, as the High Line was being built. Construction equipment can be seen mounted onto temporary rails. Cranes were built to pass over the trains in the rail yards.

 The photo was part of a construction survey done by contractors the George A. Fuller Company. The Fuller Company (which still exists) was formerly one of the largest construction companies in the world. The Company worked on the Lincoln Memorial, the National Cathedral, and the Louisiana State Capitol, among many others.

As the catalogue label shows, the High Line was referred to as the NYC Viaduct, and the architect is listed as NY Central, the rail road. Again, the Miller Elevated Highway can be seen in the background.

A historical birds-eye view is here.

Ada Louise Huxtable Attacks Rail Yards Planning Process

Wall Street Journal Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable takes the Rail Yards planning process to task today. She’s skeptical of a process she sees as offering too much to the developers to the utimate detriment of the public good, because

it is hard to believe that teams with this much financial heft and assembled star power could come up with something so awesomely bad.

Notably, she singles out the possible preservation of the High Line as a rare triumph of public opinion in this process:

This section of the High Line was considered expendable by a number of the developers until public opinion made them think otherwise; it appears in all of the schemes, usually as a kind of peripheral trim. Or worse, a device for enhancing commercial properties by allowing direct exits onto the elevated park, a terrible idea.

Huxtable suggests the lack of visionary (or even sensical) planning is due to the City’s focus on financial incentive over public benefit:

The most disturbing aspect of this high-stakes game is the default of the city and the public agencies involved: their failure to create — or is it simply disinterest? — a coordinated plan for a West Side bursting with development from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to the Javits Center, allowing these cobbled up investment schemes to substitute for any appropriate, larger solutions.

The city thinks like a developer; that vision thing, the long-term overview, the balance of private investment and public utility and amenity, is just not there.

Read the complete article after the jump.

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Update on Community Forum Breakout Sessions

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As promised, here’s a quick discussion of the break-out sessions moderated (in some cases) by members of Friends of the High Liine at the community forum presented by Community Board 4 on Monday. The graph above represents some of the main concerns expressed by the various groups (there were 13 groups in all, so you can get a feel for what concerns people most). Some surprises: That the parking and traffic issues generated by a project of this scale fall so low on the list of priorities for its neighbors, and that job creation (surely not something that is the responsibility of real estate developers?) gets almost as much attention as does that of affordable housing. One thing that’s not shocking in the least is the fact that the pure size of the project gets so much attention and concern, although one might argue that at this point there’s no stopping the behemoth on that score. You can view the Working Group Conclusion Summaries for more detailed information about the conclusions the break-out groups reached. Please do tell us where your priorities lie in the comments.

1930′s Rail Yards

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(click photo to enlarge)

A view looking Southwest at the working rail yards, taken shortly after the High Line was built (date and photographer unknown). Note the boxcars; the rail yards were originally used for freight, but are now used for Long Island Rail Road trains. The Miller Elevated Highway can also be seen, to the right.

Plans Aired to the Community at the Hudson Guild

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On Monday night, over 200 interested members of the community (as well as political figures such as New York State Senator Tom Duane) gathered at the Hudson Guild at an event sponsored by Community Board 4 and the Hudson Yards Community Advocacy Coalition that included presentations from the five developers who have submitted plans for the rail yards. After the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to break into small groups to discuss the plans and give their feedback in a formal way.

Photos of the event can be found here

CB4 prepared a handy info sheet (PDF) comparing each plan by the numbers. A summary from the community discussion will be available soon.

The developers’ presentations were short and business-like, as they labored mightily to conform to a time limit of ten minutes per proposal. That was still plenty of time for lots of shiny pictures (and in the case of the Durst/Vornado plan, a snappy video), as well as for some revealing rhetorical moments. A brief digest after the jump.

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Media Round Up, December 3-10

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