Turning the “Ugly” Into a Stunning Emerald “Green”
by Amy Lignor
We speak about “going green” and revitalizing this country: from little things, like making your own garden healthy, to projects that involve massive amounts of money as huge buildings are constructed from the ground up to be environmentally
friendly. It’s hard to put a finger on what constitutes an “amazing” project; a project where the beginning was bleak, yet the end – after a lot of work and creativity – ended up to be a revitalized work of art. Well…now, (with extra press just garnered in People magazine as being one of 100 reasons to love America), the High Line Project in NYC not only shows what can be done when people work together, but also how hard work and love can turn a definite “ugly” into a massive amount of “green.”
The group, Friends of the High Line, actually raise 98% of the High Line’s annual budget when it comes to the maintaining, operating and programming of this stunning public park owned by the City of New York.
Their mission is simple: “Through excellence in operations, stewardship, innovative programming, and world-class design, we seek to engage the vibrant and diverse community on and around the High Line, and to raise the essential private funding to help complete the High Line’s construction and create an endowment for its future operations.”
So what exactly is the High Line, you ask, and why is it such a big deal that this piece of NYC’s past was saved? The story dates back to 1934. As part of something called the West Side Improvement Project, the High Line opened to trains. Running from 34th Street to St John’s Park Terminal, it was designed to travel through the center of blocks (instead of over them) as the trains transported goods and products to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district.
However, in the 1980’s (after a huge growth in interstate trucking) the last train ran the High Line tracks and a group of property owners set to work attempting to get the High Line demolished. One man, a resident of Chelsea, was a railroad lover and challenged these demo efforts in court. The demo was halted, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the Friends of the High Line was formed. These people wanted nothing more than to preserve, revitalize, and reuse the High Line, opening it up to the public.
In the early 2000s, an open ideas competition called, “Designing the High Line,” was held and a design team was selected to transform the old, weathered, worn-out area into a stunning public park. The first section was opened to the public in 2009; the second section in 2011; and the third section, the northernmost area of the park, the High Line at the Rail Yards, in 2014. With this third and final section completed, the entire structure had been saved and literally brought back to life, benefitting individuals as well as store, restaurant and shop owners.
This defunct railroad trestle is a public landscape with a vibrant planting design. Come about from the self-seeded landscape that actually had grown on the elevated tracks during the 25 years they sat silent, a variety of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees – with hardiness, sustainability, and color variation as their characteristics – make up the landscape. In the locations where the High Line was narrow and sheltered by adjacent buildings, the water was easily retained, the soil was deeper, and vegetation was thicker. On the other side of the tracks, so to speak, where the High Line was completely exposed to winds off the Hudson, the landscape is dominated by drought-resistant grasses and wildflowers. This incredible “natural” ecosystem provides food and shelter to many species of wildlife.
But it’s not just the park and the beauty that the High Line provides to New Yorkers, it is also the fact that this area is perfect for events that bring in money to the City, as well as to the shop owners and businesses that line the “Line.” The way the High Line runs and the conditions it offers ensures that any and all events will reach 60,000+ visitors on the park’s busiest days. So anyone wishing to hold a fashion show, press event, movie screening, reception – you name it – the perfect location can be found along the High Line.
And the number of venues are many. The 5,900-square-foot covered passage through the Chelsea Market building features views of the Hudson River. The 14th Street Passage features structural elements from the railway’s industrial past, hosting events that range from the public to the more personal, such as weddings or receptions. From the Von Furstenberg Sundeck to Gansevoort Overlook to High Line Terrace, anyone and everyone can find a suitable and amazing place to hold their event for any number of guests.
In other words, when we speak about revitalization – what is the “best” when it comes to saving the past and making a weary, ready-to-be demolished site into a must-see “green” treasure, the High Line project is the one you should definitely remember!
Source: Baret News