Taking a Closer Look at NYC’s High Line

How an urban re-purposing project impacts the city and its community

By Viktoria Pashtriku

To better understand our city, its sustainability and the importance of urban re-purposing projects, Duro UAS visited the High Line to interview New Yorkers on the impact it’s had in their lives and communities.

The design of the High Line allows space for visitors to sit and be surrounded by greenery

When the United Nations presented its seventeen goals for 2016, the eleventh goal, Sustainable Cities and Communities, promoted making cities more “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” However, this goal was not new to New York. Over the years, the city has instituted countless projects, laws and organizations devoted to making our city green and sustainable.

Duro’s Julio Diaz looks over the city skyline from his view at the W 30th Street end of the High Line

A great example of these efforts is the re-purposing of an abandoned train track connecting 34th Street to Spring Street into a park in the sky, otherwise known as the High Line. On a recent trip to the High Line, a local named Margaret explained the value to her as a New Yorker, “I think it’s a wonderful idea for cities to invest in green public spaces like this. They really change communities and make them more sustainable. I enjoy walking along the High Line very much.” But just how much work went into creating this green space?

The journey of the High Line began in 1934, when New York City realized it had a problem: it needed a more efficient way to carry goods from one end to the other of the industrial district. The solution was the development and construction of the High Line. Designed to cut through blocks as opposed to run along avenues, it served the city until 1980 when the last train car carrying frozen turkeys ran on the line. What remained was a piece of metal structure abandoned in the middle of Manhattan.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea for cities to invest in green public spaces like this. They really change communities and make them more sustainable.”

Visitors past by some Common Aster flowers while on a stroll

That’s when Joshua David and Robert Hammond started Friends of the High Line in 1999 as a way to make use of this unique vestige of New York’s past. In the 17 years since, the organization has advocated, planned and eventually re-purposed the High Line into an open green space for the public.

Sun mahonia shrub evergreen juxtaposed against a metal gate on the High Line

Today, the High Line continues to serve its community and city. Now a successful example of an urban re-purposing into a green space, we saw many people enjoying the park on our visit. When we asked what they thought of the High Line, Peter and Anne, who were visiting from Paris, said, “We’re enjoying taking a walk on the High Line. Actually, we have something similar to this in Paris that we regularly take walks on. So we’re happy that New York City has something similar.”

The park Peter and Anne are referring to is Promenade Plantee, an early example of a re-purposing of an old urban structure into a park. However, the High Line has found a way to capture the public’s imagination in a way previous re-purposing projects have not.

Duro’s Viktoria Pashtriku speaks with resident Margaret about what she thinks about the re-purposing of an abandoned train track

Deemed the “High Line Effect,” cities from Toronto to Seoul are now creating their own versions of parks above ground, changing the way we view parks and green spaces in urban environments.

Mike, a local resident of the Chelsea neighborhood that the park cuts through, shared with us his insights on how the High Line has changed the community: “The High Line is great! What’s great is that new condos are being built around the area everyday. So instead of residents looking out our windows and seeing a highway and buildings, we get to see the gardens of the High Line.” His excitement over residents having green space to look at and in the neighborhood is shared among many New Yorkers, proving just how much change the High Line has made and experienced since its creation and will continue to do for years to come.

One Response
  1. I live in a very small town in Pa and I have a rail trail that I walk on. It is landscaped with a stream and wild life. When I visit my son in NY,, I love to just walk and enjoy the landscape and everywhere there is Flora. I am a avid gardener and appreciate anywhere in our world that we can add beauty. I love NY!

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