One of the most transformative projects in New York City history is complete.
The entire High Line will be fully accessible to the public this weekend with the opening of its third section, stretching from West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to 12th Avenue and then north to 34th Street.
Advocates who have been with the project since its official inception in 1999 say the 1.45-mile elevated pathway helped reshape the neighborhood as visitors from around the world could see the city in a new light.
“This really has changed the city as a whole,” City Councilman Corey Johnson said. “The number of people who come here already is quite extraordinary.”
Once the third section opens to the public Sunday, anyone will be able to walk between 34th Street and Gansevoort Street continuously.
In addition to the views from 30 feet in the air, which will include the ongoing work on the Hudson Yards development, visitors will be able to check out artwork as well as specially-planted trees and flowers.
Johnson said the High Line’s completion is a testament to west side residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond, who formed the Friends of the High Line 15 years ago as a way to save the railway from demolition and push for its transformation.
“I think they really put together the road map on how to be successful in mounting a major preservation and urban design project that fits within a community,” Johnson said.
Their work garnered considerable attention and support from residents, elected officials and celebrities such as actor Edward Norton.
“They pressed forward through that phase where even what will be one of the greatest ideas ever feels completely half-baked … even crazy,” the “Fight Club” actor said in a statement. “They had the vision and the tenacity … the rest of us just got behind them,” he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided considerable backing, including $50 million in city funding for the $150 million project.
The first section of the High Line, between Gansevoort Street and 20th Street, opened in 2009 and the second section, between 20th Street and 30th Street, opened two years later.
The Friends of the High Line said the two areas have attracted four million people over the last five years.
Upper West Side resident Shannon McGillick, 19, said she goes to the park on a regular basis. “I think it’s a nice getaway from the very urban setting of New York. It’s also very well-kept,” she said.
Anais Maroon, 35, of Cobble Hill, works near the High Line and said she plans on checking out the new section soon.
“It’s beautiful and I think it’s nice that it’s a reclaimed space. It’s nice to have a place to sit quietly, with good views and good people watching,” she said.
Supporters of the High Line say the beginnings of the project’s ultimate legacy can be felt across the city, as New Yorkers aim to emulate its success and transform other abandoned areas.
Travis Terry, a member of the Friends of the Queens Way, said they were inspired to campaign for the transformation of an abandoned railway in central Queens into a park and pedestrian path because of the success of the West Side version.
“I think they deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they did it,” he said. “I think the High Line has proved the model and gives communities and a variety of different stakeholders, including the public an example that this is a project that works.”
High Line Facts
The 1.45-mile-long park is built on a freight rail line that was fully operational between 1934 and 1980. It transported meat to the meatpacking district, agricultural goods to factories and mail to the post office.
The High Line’s design team was chosen by a six-month-long competition and included the renowned Dutch horticulturist Piet Oudolf.
It runs along the west side of Manhattan, from Gansevoort Street all the way to West 34th Street.
The park ranks high on eco-friendliness. The mostly native-to-NYC plants lining walk-paths are watered by storm runoff, a drip irrigation system and gardeners, depending on the species and park location. No pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used here.