What Is The High Line?

The High Line is an elevated greenway paved by a myriad of different trees, flowers, and other plants.  Located in the middle of Manhattan, New York, the High Line is a breath of fresh air, literally!  The greenway was originally a train railway that had been abandoned and unused since 1980 and put to good use.  The High Line now runs from Gansevoort St. to 34th St., on 10th, 11th, and 12th avenue and is sponsored by both the Department of Parks and Friends of the High Line.

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Based off of the French greenway “Promenade plantée” (tree-lined walkway), the High Line is a 1.45 mile long free public space for locals and tourists alike to freely walk through.  The idea-men behind this creation were Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of Chelsea.  While many businessmen advocated for the removal of the elevated railway, Hammond and David recognized the potential of the elevated train line as the mean to revitalize a community. So, in 1999, David and Hammond founded a non-private organization called the Friends of the High Line. With this organization, David and Hammond were able to find people with similar beliefs as them who thought that transforming the discontinued freight line would beneficial to the city overall. Although not everyone agreed with its ideals, the Friends of the High Line was finally able to convince the city in 2002 to transform the dilapidated rails into the flourishing park that it is today with a study that it had done. A study had shown that it would be more financially beneficial for the city to open the park since the revenue that the park was expected to receive was greater than the cost to construct such a park. After the plan to open the park was publicly backed by New York City, Friends of the High Line held an open competition called the “Designing the High Line” in 2003, in which over 720 ideas for the design of the park were submitted from over 36 countries. Eventually, it was an architectural firm named the James Corner Field Operations that won the contest and construction began in 2004.

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Essentially, the James Corner Field Operations’ plan for the High Line was to open it in sections. Rather than changing the whole line into a park at once, the line was divided into parts named sections. Construction for the first phase began in 2006 and on June 9, 2009, the first phase from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street was opened. Almost two years later, on June 8, 2011, the second phase from  West 20th Street to West 30th Street opened and on September 21, 2014, the third phase from West 30th Street to West 34th Street opened.

Despite it being turned into a public park, the High Line retained many of the original features of the railway. For example, throughout the park, tracks from the original railway can be seen as well as the wild plant life that inhabited it after the railways abandonment. In fact, some of the plant life within the park are from the 1980s and a conscious decision was made by the Friends of the High Line to preserve these plants to pay homage to Joel Sternfield, a photographer who photographed the beauty of the High Line after it was no longer in use. In addition to the plant and the rails, there are also numerous art displays on the High Line, from both private and public artists. Though there is no official sponsorship for the High Line with any museum, in 2015, the Whitney Museum plans to open a building at the foot of the High Line at Gansevoort Street, helping the High Line’s status to become something of a landmark to NYC.



Because of the High Line, midtown Manhattan has experienced a drastic change. Much of Chelsea, for example, has become residential and many condominiums and apartments have risen. Construction still goes on around the High Line, even as of today, and the property value around Chelsea continue to rise. According to the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the High Line has spurred a “renaissance of sorts” and Bloomberg has even openly supported positive effect of the High Line. However, while this is good for the people who own the property around the High Line, many small businesses have been unfortunately forced out of the area. Regardless, the overall effect that the High Line had on Manhattan was just as the Friends of the High Line had expected: The creation of the High Line had led to an increase in the revenue of New York City and had generally bettered the area around it.


From the 2012 PlaNYC:

  • “We will continue to implement the Hudson Yards Plan, including taking ownership of the last portion of the High Line in Manhattan and completing the 7 train line, to continue to catalyze development in this district.” – Initiative 2 (Explore Additional Areas for New Development)
  • “On Manhattan’s High Line, we will open a new section of the former rail line to the public. “ – Initiative 5 (Create and Upgrade Flagship Parks)
  • “The High Line: Construct Section 2 (20th to 30th streets) and pursue acquisition of Section 3”

And as of the 2014 PlaNYC, the construction of Section 2 and Section 3 was marked as complete.

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