Have you ever walked down railroad tracks because it was a faster route to where you were going or because you wanted the excitement of looking down on other roads, cars and pedestrians? Of course you haven’t, because it’s actually illegal if trains still use the tracks. Fortunately for us, a community-run non-profit in Manhattan has given pedestrians a simple and aesthetically pleasing solution to this legal problem: The High Line.
Friends of the High Line is a community-run, non-profit organization.
In 1934, a high line for trains opened above the streets of Manhattan from the Meat Packing District to West Chelsea to Hell’s Kitchen, because so many deaths were occurring from car-train accidents and pedestrian-train ones on the street level. Raising the trains was a great solution and helped 10th avenue lose its nickname “Death Avenue.” Soon after the line was built, however, the rise of interstate trucking as a means of transportation led to a drop in rail traffic, and the high line was abandoned and left to decay. You can see pictures of the historic line here. In the mid-1980s many property owners lobbied for its demolition, but a large community outcry halted their efforts. The community agreed that something needed to be done with the structure, but what could they do that would allow them to keep and improve the line?
The old train high line running through West Chelsea.
In 1999, a group of New Yorkers founded Friends of the High Line and worked together to figure out a way to turn this dilapidated structure into something useful and community-oriented. Thus, the High Line Project was born. Today, the first phase of the new High Line is complete and is intended for pedestrians, tourists, and city-lovers of all ages. The High Line has become a walkway above the city with observation decks, benches, food carts, gardens, miniature water parks, and even galleries for local artists. You can watch a video of the entire design plan for the High Line here (The High Line Design Video 2008). Everything about the High Line is meant to “reinforce New York City, and in particular, the neighborhood around the High Line, as a vital cultural center.” The City of New York is in full support (even financially) of this environmentally friendly project and so are we. We love the idea of a green, pedestrian-centered art space running through Manhattan as well as repurposing something old in the sake of art. There are also many ways to get involved with the High Line. Construction and upkeep is ongoing. Check out the High Line Youth Corps on their blog! If you’re traveling to New York this summer, don’t miss this exciting and inventive addition. The second phase will be open June 8.