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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Inspired by the High Line: “The Curious Garden” reviewed

[Peter Brown, Author/Illustrator, demonstrates his technique at a reading for elementary school students]

This Sunday’s New York Times Book Review featured a review of its current #2 best-selling children’s book: The Curious Garden, a lushly illustrated tale of a boy who finds an expanse of flowers and plants growing in the most unlikely of places: an abandoned elevated rail line.

In last week’s Book Review podcast, author and illustrator Peter Brown talks about his inspiration for the story: the High Line, “this lush, wild garden area that was taking care of itself. It was really this pretty miraculous site. And so when I discovered that place, when I first moved to New York, I decided that I wanted to make a book about nature living in the city in sort of an unlikely way.”

You can listen to the interview here. If you missed the readings at 192 Books and Books of Wonder, check out Peter Brown’s web site for information on upcoming readings.

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.”

Westbeth High Line Section

[Left, National Geographic magazine; Right, Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times]

Some of you may have seen this story in last Friday’s Real Estate section of the Times. While the High Line park will begin at Gansevoort and Washington, few people know that the High Line originally went as far south as St. John’s Park Terminal, which covered four riverfront blocks between Clarkson and Spring Streets. (It’s now a UPS warehouse.) In the 1960’s, the High Line below Gansevoort was demolished, with the exception of the little section of rail running through the Westbeth complex, on Washington between Bank and Bethune.

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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

Anchors Away: Morgan Stanley Pulls Out of Tishman’s Bid

The Times reports today that financial giant Morgan Stanley has backed away from its deal with Rail Yards bidder Tishman Speyer (bid here).

Tishman is one of four remaining bidders for the site, (Brookfield Properties dropped out last week) and, until today, was one of three with an anchor tenant.

Related has secured Newscorp and Durst-Vornado is working with Conde Nast on their bid. Extell is the remaining bidder with no major tenant backing going into the bidding process. While Tishman is not out of the race officially, MTA execs have made their preference for bids with anchor tenants known.

Morgan Stanley’s retreat is yet another sign of the increasing trepidation among would-be investors in this mega-site. Given the uncertain future of the real estate market, it’s no surprise that bidders are hesitant about this enormous investment. According to the Times,

The winning bidder will have to put up $20 million immediately and complete a final contract within four months, when it must make a $100 million down payment. The transportation authority expects that it will take 18 months after that to prepare the property for construction, and two to three years and about $1.5 billion to build platforms and foundations over the railyards.

The MTA maintains that a bidder will be chosen by the middle of March.

Morgan Stanley Retreating From Railyards Development  [New York Times]

BREAKING: Brookfield Not Submitting a New Bid

Brookfield Properties has announced they have not submitted a second bid for the Rail Yards site. Supplementary bids were due yesterday.

Back in January, the MTA asked the five developers to submit supplementary materials supporting their ability to lease, not buy, the 26-acre site. None of this financial information was made public.

Brookfield’s decision not to submit new materials knocks them out of the running for lead developer of the site, but according to a source, they still may be considered as partners in the development. Brookfield recently announced another large-scale development on Ninth Avenue, only a few blocks from the Rail Yards.

There was coverage today in the Times and the Observer.

Javits: Electeds Oppose Spitzer, Questions about the Value of a Convention Center

Charles Bagli writes in the Times today that Governor Spitzer’s decision to curtail Javits expansion and sell off two adjacent parcels of land is raising some hackles among others in the West Side Development arena. Among the opponents are Senator Schumer and Speaker Quinn. One of the parcels is the 33/34 block, just north of the Western Rail Yards, where the High Line comes down to grade.

The Javits Development Corporation, which is deeply divided, will meet on March 5. The questions about the future of Javits are rooted in a debate about the value of conventions to the city’s economy.

Although convention centers often lose money, proponents argue that the spending of tens of thousands of visitors on hotels, restaurants, bars, museums and Broadway shows more than makes up the difference.

Some economists contend that cities across the country that have built new centers or expanded existing ones during a decade-long boom have created a national glut of exhibit and meeting space.

“The reality is that the convention and trade show market is a buyer’s market,” said Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the author of a 2005 Brookings Institution report on the convention industry. “Cities that have expanded like Atlanta and Orlando quite often find that they’ve gotten no new business in the wake of those expansions.”

New York may be a more attractive destination than Orlando, Cleveland or Sacramento, but, critics say, it will never compete with convention cities where hotel rooms are cheaper and more plentiful. Land is too expensive in New York to justify the costs of a big horizontal conventional hall.

The long and short of this is that the Javits expansion, like most of the massive West Side developments, is going to be a hard-fought process.

Opponents Organize Against State’s Plan to Scrap Javits Center Expansion  [New York Times]

Sweet “No-Profit” Gallery Opens Near the High Line


[Photo by Suzanne DeChillo, New York Times]

From the Times this weekend: A gallery has opened near the High Line that defies the current super-hot gallery market by operating as an egalitarian “no-profit” space for young and emerging artists. Honey Space is run by some artists themselves, and any revenues generated from the sale of art will be used to defray the costs of running the space.

Honey Space is operating in the ground floor of an out-of-use warehouse that is being provided free of charge by local developer and long-time FHL supporter Alf Naman.