The High Line = good economics

resize-for-blog-dsc_3256[The High Line last fall, as landscaping crews began planting.]

All eyes were on our nation’s capital today as President Obama signed the stimulus bill (or, properly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) into law. Before the $787 billion economic recovery package was finally approved, debate raged over how the funds should be distributed.

On that note, James S. Russell, Bloomberg‘s architecture critic, argued a point we couldn’t agree with more: “If you want bang for taxpayer’s buck, build parks and fund the arts.”

His recently published article on asserts that the arts spur economic development, citing the High Line as a prime example: “From an economic standpoint, starving the arts is suicidal. Consider the case of the High Line, the park in the Meatpacking District. The City of New York invested $170 million in the project, which directly inspired as many as 50 major residential projects worth as much as $5 billion.”

Click here to read the full article on

NYT’s ‘Public Lives’ on FHL Co-Founders

[Robert Hammond, left, and Josh David on the High Line. Photo by Oscar Hidalgo for the Times.]

Today’s New York Times Metro section featured a profile of Co-Founders Robert Hammond and Josh David in the “Public Lives” column.

On the 1999 Community Board meeting where the two met, and first learned about the High Line:

ALTHOUGH neither had previously experienced a deep emotional or aesthetic connection to the structure — or, to be honest, any connection at all — the notion of it being eliminated from the cityscape in the interest of cookie-cutter development had struck them as heretical. Shortsighted, too.

“I fell in love with the very thing most people were complaining about, this rusty eyesore from the city’s industrial past,” says Mr. Hammond. “I saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve a mile and a half of Manhattan as an uninterrupted walkway and vantage point for people to enjoy on their own terms.”

High Line Featured in NYT Editorial

For the very first time that we are aware of, the High Line was featured in a New York Times Editorial. In it, America’s paper of record challenges the City and Tishman Speyer to seize the opportunity provided by the development rights to the West Side Rail Yards and to do the right thing and “preserve all of the High Line, the 1.5-mile stretch of elevated railway that is being transformed into a green jewel of public space.”

There was considerable pride and a few tears as we read this unprecedented shout-out by the Times.

Read the editorial  on the Times site, or after the jump.

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Rail Yards Update: MTA Might Pick a Bidder by Wednesday

The development process for the West Side Rail Yards could be on the verge of an important milestone, which comes as a surprise to many who assumed this process would be slowed in the wake of economic uncertainty and the recent shakeup in state government.

The New York Times reported this weekend that the MTA is close to choosing a bidder for the 26-acre site, Manhattan’s largest development plot. Of the five developers who originally bid on the rail yards site, only two are still being considered. Charles Bagli of the Times names the bid by Tishman Speyer as the favorite and quotes real estate executives as saying that the MTA will likely make a recommendation at its board meeting this Wednesday. Also in the running is a joint venture by the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust.

According to the article, The Related Companies, considered by many to be the front-runner, lost some ground last week when Newscorp, their anchor tenant, pulled out. Extell also withdrew its bid last week, and Brookfield Properties withdrew in late February, though they are still open to teaming with another developer on the site.

Both Tishman Speyer and Durst/Vornado have said they support at least partial preservation of the High Line at the rail yards, but both developer plans include demolition of sections of the structure. Tishman Speyer’s plan proposes keeping the entire structure except for the spur over Tenth Avenue at 30th Street, while Durst/Vornado’s plan tears down the spur, along with the entire portion of the structure along Twelfth Avenue. Friends of the High Line has met with both developer teams during this process, and we’ve made the case for full preservation of the High Line. The MTA has stated that preserving the High Line is its preference, as long as it doesn’t hinder construction or prove cost-prohibitive.

Friends of the High Line is also beginning to work with our new governor, David Patterson, on this issue. We’ve been in touch with the governor’s staff, and we’re confident he will be a strong ally in the movement to preserve the entire High Line. Governor Paterson has a strong environmental record and a proven interest in listening to community concerns regarding large-scale developments. We look forward to working with the new governor on our most important advocacy issue, and we will continue to work with the MTA and their selected developer to ensure the High Line’s full preservation.

Read the New York Times Article

View Tishman Speyer’s Rail Yards Bid

Profile: Larry Lerner


The movement to save the High Line started as a grassroots operation, localized in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.  From the very early days, the neighborhood newspapers of Community Media (The Villager, Gay City News, Downtown Express, and later, Chelsea Now) have carried some of the best coverage of the project.

Chelsea Now was launched in 2006 to focus exclusively on the recently-rezoned and rapidly-changing neighborhood. Larry Lerner was hired as a reporter for the paper and quickly promoted to Associate Editor. (Community Media’s Associate Editors are its papers top editors). During his time at Chelsea Now, in addition to many, many other valuable Chelsea stories, Larry wrote some of our favorite High Line articles. (He also took some compelling photographs.)

Larry was the first journalist to note the High Line’s threatened status at the Rail Yards. In December, the paper carried an extensive interview with Robert Hammond about the Rail Yards, and a forceful editorial making the case for the High Line at the Rail Yards.

He’s also covered many of our public programs, including the High Line Cell Phone Tour.

A more complete list of Larry’s articles for Chelsea Now can be seen here.

Along with two other editors and a creative director, Larry was laid off in late January. I sat down with him briefly to chat about his time at Chelsea Now, and what’s coming up next. Our conversation is after the jump.

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