More Obsessed: The High Line

I was really disappointed by the New York Times article insulting The High Line as “Disney World on the Hudson.” Many of my urban planning friends were quick to assume this one bad review meant that The High Line was a “planning mistake.” I disagreed so much I commented on someone else’s post with:

“I think the High Line is not only a model of an active recreational reuse of an abandoned industrial structure but also of what investing in creative green spaces can do to a neighborhood. The increase in investment and property values that Moss apparently thinks are a bad thing are just an indication of how much investors, visitors and residents appreciate the innovative space. Before the High Line was transformed into a space for community art, local food vendors, loungers, walkers, and (yes tourists!) it was a hulking, polluted metal structure bearing down on the neighborhood. What is wrong with taking something that is dragging down a community and turning it into something to uplift the community? Philadelphia is facing this problem with a similar abandoned railroad viaduct and countless dilapidated industrial buildings that create visual and psychological barriers within our neighborhoods. I say, we need more High Lines!”

And the designs coming out for the third section, “The Rail Yards,” only strengthen my admiration for this planning SUCCESS! These designs even address one of the NY Times article’s complaints. The author was quick to complain that the designers and gardeners hade removed all of what I would call the “grit” of The High Line including the wild flowers, weeds and graffitti. (but they also removed the soil contamination, illegal activity and activated the space) But the designs for the Rail Yards recognize that some people are interested in preserving the wild character the structure has taken on through “self-seeding” since it was abandoned almost 30 years ago.  The designs for the Reading Viaduct transformation in Center City Philadelphia also evoke the “self-seeded” and wild character of the structure in response to input from the community: http://centercityphila.org/about/viaduct.php.

Photo Source: Friends of the High Line Blog: http://www.thehighline.org/blog

The latest designs for The High Line extension also propose a “Beam Exploration Area” that actually exposes the metal beam architecture beneath the surface making an industrial playground by covering the metal girders with a thick, rubbery surface. Although not as kid-friendly, the Race Street Pier also includes a section where the facade has been peeled away to allow the visitors to see the underlying structure of the pier (and the churning water below).

Photo Source: Friends of the High Line Blog: http://www.thehighline.org/blog

I also love the new and expanded set of “peel-up” designs including benches, picnic-tables and interactive learning stations for kids. I was impressed with the benches using this concept in the second phase of the project because they seem to be a 3-D continuation of the cement planks that in turn evoke the linear rail road tracks that are so important to the structure’s history.

Photo Source: Friends of the High Line Blog: http://www.thehighline.org/blog

In conclusion, I feel there is so much to learn from The High Line: economic development, park planning, stormwater management, public space design, education, community engagement. So, excuse me for not focusing on the crowds of tourists that clog the paths of The High Line. There are tourists everywhere in New York City and The High Line is quickly becoming an integral landmark in NYC. So… what are we going to do? Are we really going to complain that this structure is too beautiful and too popular?

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