Thanksgiving at the Bloomingdale Trail

Headed to Chicago for a Thanksgiving meal with the family, I thought I’d take advantage of the Windy City’s version of the High Line. Arriving early, I got a section tour of the structure from The Trust for Public Land‘s Laura Uhlir. Half the height of the High Line (15 feet tall) and wider than 30 feet across in some places, Chicago’s elevated railroad runs east-west, connecting various northwest neighborhoods (Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park). Running 2.7 miles long, the Bloomingdale Trail is longer than the High Line, and includes 37 viaduct bridges over streets.

Bloomingdale Trail looking west from the Kimball Street Access Point. The Canadian Pacific Railroad occasionally stores cars up on the unused tracks.

In 1998, the City of Chicago recognized the trail as a potential public space. Since then, City and community support for the project has grown, with the help of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail. The group began in 2003, and four years later the Bloomingdale Trail Collaborative was formed out of an alliance between the Friends and the national organization Trust for Public Land,  in partnership with the City.

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Vancouver’s High Line?

The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Image from The Vancouver Sun.

The City of Vancouver could potentially redevelop its twin viaducts, Georgia and Dunsmuir, as public open space, according to a recent article in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight. Former Vision Vancouver councilor Jim Green imagines these two overpasses as Canada’s first “High Line-style promenades.” However, others at the City are pushing for the viaducts to be torn down and replaced with office and residential buildings.

Green states, “One of the things that we could do is to make bicycle lanes and pedestrian park space up there…You could really enliven two different areas of Vancouver.” The existing land holds two sports arenas and connects downtown Vancouver to Strathcona, one of the city’s oldest residential neighborhoods. The viaducts were originally built in 1913 for streetcars, and were incorporated in 1972 into Vancouver’s freeway system.

Will Vancouver build Canada’s first elevated pedestrian park, and join the growing ranks of other international cities following in the footsteps of the High Line? Stay tuned…

Save the Embankment!

The Harsimus Stem Embankment, Jersey City. Photos by Robert Hammond

The Harsimus Stem Embankment, Jersey City. Photos by Robert Hammond

On Sunday, Co-Founder Robert Hammond headed over to Jersey City for the Embankment Preservation Coalition‘s annual members and supporters meeting. He reports back on the High Line’s sister project, which is just getting, well, off the ground:

“I was blown away immediately upon spotting the half-mile structure that once carried freight for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The Embankment holds an untouched beauty, and really reminded me of the feelings I had years ago in the early days of the High Line. It’s a quick PATH ride from the High Line to Jersey City, and it’s another amazing opportunity for a great linear public space.  The Coalition project really needs support right now, so I urge you to check out their Web site to find out more and see what you can do.

Image from the Embankment Preservation Coalition's website. Shows the view from up on the embankment.

Photo from the Embankment's Web site, showing the view.

“The Embankment is six acres of space broken into six segments which were originally connected by metal bridges and are now separated by city streets. It runs west to east through a residential neighborhood, and ends overlooking the river, practically right across from the High Line. While the Embankment is much wider than the High Line, measuring 100 feet across, and considerably lower to the ground, the landscape is reminiscent of the High Line’s original wilderness. When I went the fall colors were spectacular– it was an easy sell.”

After the break, more photos, and info on the future plans for the Embankment.

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New Adventures in Composting

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The gardeners working on the High Line are reflections of their workspace: exciting, sturdy, 30 feet off the ground, and working toward sustainability in all its various forms. Gardener Meg Graham recently gave a presentation to her fellow planstpeople about her visit to Growing Power, a community urban farm she recently visited in Milwaukee. In sharing her thoughts, she vividly described for her coworkers a process called vermicomposting, which in this case involved broken dryers, worms, and dirt cubes.

You can view a clip from her excellent presentation on this composting method here [PDF].

Save Jersey City’s High Line– Deadline Tomorrow!

embankmentLike the High Line? Want to help with our sister project? Now’s your chance!

The Harsimus Stem Embankment, an elevated stone structure that runs for a half mile along 6th street in downtown Jersey City needs your help. The Embankment Preservation Coalition is the non-profit group working to preserve the Embankment, develop its top as  open space, and integrate the site into a network of local and regional pedestrian and biking trails.

The Coalition needs as many supporters as possible to immediately file an environmental comment with the Surface Transportation Board– the same government body through which the High Line is preserved.

The process is simple, and only takes a moment. Click here to view the instructions on how to help and to help preserve an “irreplaceable historic and environemental resource.” The deadline is April 7th at 4:00 PM, so act now!

View the action alert here.
View the Harsimus Stem Embankment Website here.

Freshkills Park Blog and Tours

Fresh Kills Park

[Aerial rendering of Freshkills Park, via flickr.]

Freshkills Park, our other favorite future New York City Park designed by Field Operations, recently launched a blog. Updated by members of the team developing the park at the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the Freshkills Park Blog is a great source for photos, updates, and lots of fascinating information about the largest park to be developed in New York City in more than 100 years.

Check out the blog for more information about free public tours of Freshkills Park, which begin this Saturday, April 4th, and continue every other week through the fall. (If you’re looking for something to do after checking out the site, the blog also offers daytrip suggestions [PDF] for the area.)

Majora Carter passes on the torch at Sustainable South Bronx

Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), the Bronx-based non-profit, announced today that Founder and environmental justice champion Majora Carter will be stepping down from her post as Executive Director. 

Deputy Director Miquela Craytor has been promoted to fill her rather large shoes and will continue to lead this groundbreaking organization, which is a force for innovation in the South Bronx, and serves as a model for communities across the globe.

Ms. Carter will continue to offer strategic support to SSBx while pursuing a wide array of new opportunities, including her own consulting business focusing on the economic potential of green-collar employment opportunities.  

We at the High Line are continually impressed with the work she has done on behalf of her own neighborhood, environmental justice issues, as well as the welfare of communities across the globe.  We wish her the best in her future endeavors and are excited to see where Ms. Craytor leads SSBx.

For more articles and info about Majora Carter, check out:

Carter Discusses Need to ‘Green the Ghetto’ at U.Va.  [UVA Today]

Carrying the Olympic Torch, and Protesting It, Too   [New York Times]

Biography: Majora Carter  [CNN.com] 

How the Bronx Turned Green  [The Root]

Is Bike-Sharing in NYC’s Future?

[Bike-Sharing in Lyon, France. Courtesy Time Out New York]

Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC the new DOT Commissioner, and Transportation Alternatives, New York is becoming a more bike-friendly city, and more and more people are starting to bike regularly. Up next could be a bike-sharing program, which are already successful in many European Cities (Here’s info about the Paris, Copenhagen, and Barcelona models), and newly implemented in Washington D.C. Everyone from city residents to tourists are nuts about bike-sharing: it’s a cheap, easy, healthy, environmentally friendly way to get around cities. In NYC, where so many of our transit trips are short and congestion is only getting worse, bike sharing makes so much sense to me.

There’s an experiment beginning July 10th to see what it could look like in New York. A “summer pilot program” produced by the Forum for Urban Design, the Storefront for Art & Architecture, and the City Bakery, the New York Bike-Share Project will consist of 20 bikes available for 30 minute rentals (for free!) at a few locations in downtown Manhattan, and an exhibition and discussions about the feasibility for a long-term project.

Your help is needed to make it a success! The project wants to know how New Yorkers would use these bikes for short trips–so go for a ride! Or, better yet, join me in volunteering: There are shifts available from Thursday July 10th – Monday July 14th. If you’d like to help out, please e-mail info@forumforurbandesign.org. I’ll report back with pictures.

Read more: Bike-Sharing Gets Smart, Time, June 12, 2008

Bicycle-Sharing Program to Be First of Kind in U.S., New York Times, April 27, 2008

Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and Swimming Pools Part I

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[Robert Hammond, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Ritt Bjerregaard, Ric Scofidio, the Mayor for the Technical and Environmental Administration Klaus Bondam]

This morning, we took the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Ritt Bjerregaard and several Danish officials on a tour of High Line construction (you can see the recently re-installed tracks on either sides of the planking).

I love the Danes and their use of public space. The Copenhagen Harbour Bath is on my short list of swimming holes I want to visit.

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The Bath was built in 2002– the water in the Harbor is so clean they don’t even need to filter or chlorinate the water. Some Copenhageners now pack towels and swimwear in their briefcases. 

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This summer I hope to try our own local version: the Floating Pool that opened last summer. 

Stay tuned for more swimming pools– including one that was once proposed for the High Line!

Back to TEXAS: Voelcker Park

When people hear I am from San Antonio they often ask if I hope the High Line becomes like the River Walk. The answer is no. The River Walk is designed for tourists, and my dream is that the High Line is first and foremost a well-loved park for New Yorkers that visitors may also enjoy. 

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[San Antonio River Walk in the summer and in December]

But San Antonio now has the opportunity to be known for a wholly different kind of public space that’s designed for residents, not tourists, and it makes an inspiring story. 

The last, large tract of undeveloped land just a few miles from downtown’s River Walk was the 311-acre Voelcker Dairy Farm. Most of the property had not been cultivated and looked like the land settlers saw when they first came to the area. Some of the trees there were standing at the time of the Battle of the Alamo — all within the bounds of the tenth largest city in the country.  Plans were in the works to sell the property for housing developments.  Instead the City, at the Mayor’s initiative, bought all 311 acres and set about to preserve the landscape and turn it into Voelcker Park, which will be the city’s largest park.  

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[photo from the Voelcker Park website]

And it keeps getting better.  Them they hired the team of Steven Stimson Associates and D.I.R.T Studio to oversee the development of a master plan.  D.I.R.T is led by one of my favorite landscape designers, Julie Bargmann.

Their winning competition entry is after the jump.

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