Wednesday, December 14

The High Line Intends to Distance Itself

Next spring, Hudson Yards and The High Line will, for better or for worse, break ground on development and construction, becoming next-door neighbors along Manhattan’s West Side.

The ambitious and costly plans for the Hudson Yards have led Friends Of the High Line, the acting management in charge of its development and maintenance, to act fast. Last Tuesday, Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond lead a “Rail Yards Community Input Meeting” in the auditorium of P.S. 11, three blocks from The High Line, to invite input on construction and design ideas for the last third of its space. This portion of the park will wrap around the new Hudson Yards.

Credited to Friends Of The Highline

Hammond made clear to the audience of a hundred or so that stakeholders involved were all on board, and that they had reached an agreement, in principle, with owner CSX Inc. to extend to 34th Street. Conversations invited were discussion on what Section 3 would provide, what current plans to preserve the integrity of the High Line are, and how to adapt to becoming an entwined with the massive Hudson Yards project.

While the park is under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Friends of the High Line currently raises the private funds that support over 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, according to The High Line’s website. Like the Hudson Yards, The High Line finds itself pressed for funds.

The park succeeded, according to Hammond, despite the original intention to tear the structure down. “The city was not prepared for it to be such a success,” he said.

Original funding from the city for High Line construction totaled $160 million, and the final section is estimated to cost an additional $70-90 million. Hammond cautioned attendees about the city’s recent hesitation to fund the construction of the final section.

Like before, the High Line will have to depend on private donations and public initiative. Chris Johnson, the leader of Community Board Four, noting that the current High Line was born out of a community meeting, said “I’m not sure who the next members of the Friends of the High Line will be, but they may be sitting next to you.”

Once funds are secured, the major concern is how The High Line will be able to remain separate from the Hudson Yards developments. Referencing the magnitude of Hudson Yards, he said, “It is not on a Chelsea scale. It’s almost a--,” Hammond hesitated, “it is a Midtown scale. It’s Midtown, brought over.”

The High Line finds itself dangerously close to the proposed spaces. It’s northernmost section is adjacent to the Coach building. Its path wraps around the yard. Despite the city’s hesitation to keep it intact, the High Line in the afternoon on a temperate day seems to host a population of Midtown itself. According to Friends of The High Line’s statistics, The High Line currently averages as many daily visitors as the Met.

“Every day is the Easter Parade,” Hammond commented.

With the Yards development and an extension of the 7 train expected to bring massive numbers out West, estimates for the number of High Line visitors this will bring are very high. With this in mind, attendees of the meeting proposed multiple initiatives to preserve the High Line’s independence. There was a proposal for the practical, such as more bathrooms. There was also a favored proposal to bring a form of tribute to the history of the High Line and work done .

“When people stop me on the High Line, I get asked the same question: What was here before the High Line?”an attendee said.

One gentleman proposed a locomotive be placed on the third section as a more visceral reminder of what the High Line used to be. In the only attempt to acknowledge and possibly integrate the Hudson Yards properties, one woman proposed that the spacious Tenth Avenue spur be turned into a performance space, or maybe merging with the ‘Culture Shed’ planned for the Hudson Yards.

But there was one point to be agreed upon. There were numerous concerns voiced about integrity, and Hammond mentioned that some city officials and Related planners had suggested a seamless transition between the High Line and the Hudson Yards properties. This idea was rejected. It was important that the High Line remain its own separate and preserved space.

Hammond made clear the stance of him and his team, “In Section 1 and 2, 5 feet of space is required between the High Line and any building, “ he said, “For Section 3, the Friends of the High Line will maintain that distance.”

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