Elevated Green Space

New York Magazine has a preview of the second phase of the High Line set to open in about a year. As an urbanist, the idea behind the High Line perplexes me. I walked the linear park when I was in New York in April and felt entirely underwhelmed.

(from Flickr user wallyg)

Perhaps the number one thing that I love about Manhattan is how completely walkable the city is. I'm yet to visit a city where a pedestrian can walk for mile-long stretches and feel safe, comfortable and among interesting surroundings. The concept of climbing a set of stairs, walking next to fake railroad tracks and shrubs, and then climbing down somewhere along the stretch is not particularly appealing to me.

Yes, this is a green space that exists in a city that is so dense that green space has become a hot commodity; but my experience is nothing like that of Central Park or even a small neighborhood park. High Line is a linear park, so there are no ball fields or basketball courts, you can't ride a bike up there, so aside from walking or jogging, there isn't a lot to do.

I don't think High Line is necessarily a bad idea. I just don't quite understand the hype.


    On June 29, 2010 John Morris said...

    I guess living in NY for a while would turn you around. There really is a desperate need for green space. To have something like this that doesn't seriously undermeine the density but adds relaxation, with a different view of the city is really great.

    Like many things in NY, a big problem is just that it's too crowded.

    Still, the underlying concept, is likely just emerging of having many spaces like this. Roof gardens and farms are now also becoming common.

    On June 29, 2010 Joe S said...

    Hey Rob, I understand where you're coming from. However, the one inaccurate fact is that these are not "fake railroad tracks" rather it's a former rail line that hasn't been in use for a long time. Given the area and the density of NYC, I can't think of a better use of space. The major impact the Highline has produced is the amount of development that has taken place around it. To me that's the main value.


    John, you're on to something. I can't say what I might think about New York from a local's perspective because I've never been one.

    Joe, to clarify, I didn't mean to suggest that the High Line wasn't originally a railroad. What I meant is that the tracks that you walk next to up there are not the same tracks that were used by the railroads - rather, they were installed for the purpose of the park.


    I think if you compare it to Millennium Park in Chicago, it makes a lot more sense. Landscape architecture as attraction that locals also enjoy as a place to hang out. Sitting in the Lurie Garden by the stream reminds me a lot of the High Line. So, not for recreation or walking/biking, but more like a plaza that people go out of their way to visit.

    And speaking of Chicago -- you should find plenty of contiguous miles of safe, comfortable and interesting walking here.

    On June 30, 2010 John Morris said...

    It's pretty exagerated to say the High Line created all the high end construction around it.

    I am represented by Damelio Terras (525 West 22nd St), one of several hundred contemporary art galleries that started opening in the area around 1995.Prrior to that there was the Dia Center For The Arts.

    High end construction has been going on since around 2000.

    The existance of this really wild park up on the freight line people passed under every day started to get around. I wish i broken in to see it.

    Anyway, the moral here is that really mixed use and dense areas can have green space and infact making could use of land can enable a lot of it.

    NYC. is just starting to work towards having pocket parks and playgrounds in every neighborhood.