Author: mateuszwysocki

Parks and “Public” Space

The Highline is a prominent example of how ever changing New York City is. This old run down rail line was transformed into a beautiful tourist attraction, which still sparks much debate to this day. When the High Line was being made there was an uproar about what to do with it. Many different groups were interested in taking over the old rail line, but others wanted to destroy it for new construction to be made, and some wanted to renovate it. Josh David and Robert Hammond initially got involved when both went to a community board meeting and discussed renovating the High Line into something for society. Today, there is discourse about parks like the High Line being used to excuse the gentrification of other areas. Some people have claimed that the High Line is a good example of neoliberalism but that is not true; David and Hammond made the High Line to show the true art of New York architecture and create a monument for people to praise for generations.

Before the High Line became what it is today, the area was surrounded by sex, drugs, and gays. It was a safe haven for gays because it was a cheap area, and no one really paid attention to what was over there, which David noted when he first moved into the area. David became interested in the area after doing some research around the High Line and realizing that the area was 22 blocks of untouched above ground rail lines. Hammond became interested in the High Line after reading about it in a piece from The New York Times, and was flabbergasted that “this industrial relic had lasted so long and was about to be torn down” (David 2011). They were both interested in getting people up on the High Line and give them a new view of New York City.

Now the question is, were David and Hammond neoliberal urbanists that did not care about those that might be hurt by the renovation of the High Line, or were they unaware of the possibility of gentrifying the neighborhood and just wanted to make something beautiful?

I believe that David and Hammond did not want to gentrify the area and push out those who were already in the neighborhood, but rather wanted to share the new world that the High Line offered. “It was shock to see how beautiful it was….seeing [The High Line] for the first time made us realize how important it was to show it to other people” (David 2011). They genuinely seemed as if they just wanted to make use of this area for anyone in the city, without thinking about the repercussions. Both of these gay men most likely did not mean to take away this area for young gays to hang out, and instead intended for it to be a new place for them to hang out, not recognizing that young gays use safe havens away from other people so that they may come into their person quietly and in their own time.

Nowadays, the area is still a primarily gay area, with many bars and residents located there, but the young gays who used this area as a refuge are no longer located here. According to Erik Piepenburg, the area was heavily gay back then and is still to this day, but fails to acknowledge that the area is for wealthier, older LGBTQ members now, while it used to be an area for those who were still coming into their skin. The area “gentrified” in the way that the rich pushed out the financially unstable younger generation that made use of the area. But I do not believe that David and Hammond intended to destroy what had originally grown there, but rather did not think about it thoroughly and instead got much too invested in what they were doing. While this is not an excuse and younger gays have moved to new, cheaper area’s, and the area along the High Line remains a heavily gay area, I do not believe that David and Hammond were neoliberal urbanists because they originally intended for the area to stay a place for everyone. The area may have undergone neoliberal urbanism, with it’s pricey “exotic” elite food stands and security guards, but when reading how David and Hammond recounted the development of The High Line, it seemed to me that this is not exactly what they had envisioned when they thought of The High Line.

Loughran K (2014) Parks for profit: The High Line, growth machines, and uneven development of urban public spaces. City & Community (pp 49-64). Northwestern Univeristy

and the Uneven Development of Urban Public Spaces

David J and Hammond R (2011) High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky. New York: FSG Originals

Piepenburg E (2012) The New York Times Under the High Line, a gay past. 13 April


Robert Moses: A City Ruined by Aesthetic

Robert Moses essentially shaped New York City into what it is today. He was a man of great power and influence, and whether you believe he did more harm than good or vice versa, it is without a doubt that he impacted New York City. In The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro and Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York by Hillary Ballon and Kenneth T. Jackson, we are taken on a journey through which both the pro’s and con’s are weighed concerning what Moses accomplished. While Moses did connect New York City through use of parkways, highways, parks, pools, and fancy buildings, he managed to displace ~250,000 people doing so. Therefore, the question is, what right did he have to ruin the lives of thousands? Is it possible/appropriate to enjoy something that caused so much pain and suffering?

In A Town Revived, A Villain Redeemed, journalist Phillip Lopate discusses what lights that have been shone on Robert Moses. In the Power Broker book, at least from what we have been given to read, both sides of Robert Moses are shown. It’s discussed that the Tammany government was not using any taxes from the citizens to construct and revitalize New York City, and Robert Moses came in and effectively forced government funding to be funneled towards rebuilding our city, but destroyed anyone that got in his path. In the Modern City, it’s primarily just discussed how Robert Moses shaped New York City and Long Island through building parks and pools.

Lopate puts forth the idea that if we like our modern city, we have to thank Robert Moses. Truthfully, he is right. Without Robert Moses, it’s probable that I would have no easy way to commute to Queens College from Long Island, and my already dreadful commute would be even worse. There would most likely be far less playgrounds and pools for families to enjoy and Lincoln Center would not be the landmark it is today. We can admire all the parks, the layout of the highways, and the way these luxurious buildings look because they are what make New York City today.

Or we can hate the way everything was designed and built and be frustrated at Robert Moses for uprooting and destroying hundreds of thousands of lower-income lives.

Lopate quoted a professor saying “The important questions, however, are not about whether Moses was prejudiced — no doubt he was — but whether that prejudice was something upon which he acted frequently.” Apparently in modern day society it is still possible to excuse a rich, old, white man for destroying the lives of people of color and other lower-income peoples. To be able to say that someone is without a doubt prejudice but claim the way they destroyed lives was not because of their prejudice is slightly ridiculous. Was it his right to do this because of a modernized “White Man’s Burden?” He took away land from those who were economically disadvantaged, typically people of color, and told everyone it was the right thing to do to make New York City better.

It’s a moral dilemma figuring out whether we should be ashamed for enjoying what a racist, old man built. The best solution at this point might just be to remember and fight to prevent more lives from being destroyed. Robert Moses is vital to the history of New York City, and will forever be remembered as both an innovator and a menace to lower-class society.


Caro, Robert A. Wait Until Evening. “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” (pp 4-21)

Caro, Robert A. New York City: Before Robert Moses. “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” (pp 323-346)

Gutman, Marta. “Equipping the Public Realm Rethinking Robert Moses and Recreation.”

Lopate, Phillip. “A Town Revived, a Villain Redeemed.” The New York Times. February 10, 2007. Accessed February 22, 2017.