The High Line

Last Updated October 24, 2014

A one-of-a-kind experience, built on a long abandoned railway in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. It's a delightful combination of wild, natural foliage, original and restored rails, breath-taking views, benches, and areas to relax and lose yourself in the beauty and achievement that is the High Line.

High Line, Past and Present

While the elevated structure was basically sound prior to its transformation, the line was in a state of complete disrepair. Natural wild grasses, indigenous plants, and rugged trees such as sumac grew wild along the structure. During the Giuliani administration, it was slated for demolition. 

In 1999, area residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond started a community group, Friends of the High Line, dedicated to turning the High Line into an elevated park-greenway, similar to the beautiful Promenade plantée in Paris. In 2002, the Bloomberg Administration backed the project when it filed with the United States Surface Transportation Board requesting authorization to create a rail banked trail on the site. The Surface Transportation Board granted a Certificate of Interim Trail Use in June 2005. 

The High Line structure south of 30th Street was donated to the City of New York by CSX Transportation, Inc., in November 2005. Construction began on the High Line’s transformation into a public park in 2006.

The design team was led by James Corner Field Operations, with Diller Scofidio Renfro, Piet Oudolf, and consultants in lighting design, structural engineering, and many other disciplines. The design team was selected through a competition held by the City of New York and Friends of the High Line in 2004.

Much of the park lies within the West Chelsea Special District, a zoning area specially created by the City in June 2005 that has fostered development along the High Line and in the West Chelsea neighborhood. The rezoned area has provided opportunities for new residential and commercial development, facilitated the reuse of the High Line as a unique park, created and maintained affordable housing, and enhanced the neighborhood’s art gallery district. 

Since the rezoning, a total of 1,374 new housing units—132 of which are affordable units—and just under 500,000 square feet of commercial office space were completed or put into construction from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street. A total of 33 new housing, commercial, retail, non-profit and gallery projects are completed, in construction, or in the planning stage as a result of the new economic development opportunities provided by the High Line.

Overview

The park is a unique public space built on top of a 1930s-era elevated rail line that hovers 30 feet above Manhattan’s West Side. It’s the first public park of its kind in the United States. Each phase of the High Line adds new, creative twists to the design that has now become synonymous with the High Line—planking, peel-up benches, custom wooden furniture, public gathering areas, children's exploration areas, and unique city viewpoints that allow visitors to really submerge themselves into the city. The opening of the first half-mile section in 2009 was the culmination of more than three years of construction and ten years of planning.

Section 1

In 2009, Friends of the High Line Co-Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond, together with Mayor Bloomberg and other government and community luminaries proudly opened the first section of the High Line. This first section is accessible to the public at several locations along 10th Avenue: Gansevoort Street, 14th, 16th, 18th and 20th Street, with ADA accessibility through elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street. Visitors can get more information on The High Line's hours and park rules at the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation website.

The design welcomes visitors with its wild, self-seeded landscape, over 210 species that grew up naturally on the High Line when the trains stopped running in 1980. It retains the original railroad tracks from the industrial structure and restored steel elements including its signature art deco railings. An integrated system of concrete pathways, seating areas and special features blend with naturalistic planting areas to create singularly sensational landscape. There are new, often unexpected views of the City and the Hudson River. Pebbles along the concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, meandering its way along the river.

Section 2

Just two years after the opening of the first section, Section 2, from 20th Street to 30th Street, was opened to the public in Spring 2011. Section 2 added public access points at 23rd, 28th, and 30th Streets, as well as ADA-accessible elevators at both 23rd Street and 30th Street. The Friends of the High Line provided a video tour of the construction of Section 2. 

Section 3

Section 3 opened to the public on September 21, 2014, and represents an important milestone in development of the High Line, as the public can now walk all the way from the Southern end at Gansevoort and West 12th Street to its Northern terminus at 34th Street and 12th Avenue. Section 3 begins at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, right where Section 2 left off.

Moving Forward

With the completion of Section 3, there remains a small portion of the High Line that is still under design. The Spur of the High Line that extends over the 30th Street and 10th Avenue intersection is currently in the design phase, with construction expected to begin in the next few years.

Beyond the completion of the three sections of the High Line, NYCEDC and Department of Cultural Affairs have finalized a land sale contract with the Whitney Museum of American Art, and construction is underway that will lead to the creation of the new home of the Whitney as a major cultural anchor to the High Line at Gansevoort Street. The Whitney is expected to open to the public in 2015.

The New Whitney Museum, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, is to be located at the southern tip of the High Line, alongside Friends of the High Line's new Maintenance and Operations Building, also designed by Renzo Piano. Approval of this project pursuant to the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) occurred in September 2008.

Costs
Section 1 and 2$152.3 million
Section 3, as currently opened to public$35 million
Design and construction of opened area$86.2 million
Funding
$123.2 million from the City
$20.3 million from the Federal Government
$400,000 from the State
Remaining funds will be raised privately by Friends of the High Line and Neighboring Developers
To date, Friends of the High Line have raised $44 million

Before & After Transformation

before
Photo Credit: SiteWorks

More transformations of the High Line can be seen on our multimedia transformations page. 

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