High Line should be part of Hudson Yards

With the Hudson Yards bids now in, concerns about the future of the northern section of the High Line are once again thrust into focus.

The High Line is a critical component of the Hudson Yards redevelopment project. Even the developers think so: The majority of them are supporting retention of the northern section of the High Line in their bids.

The High Line makes good economic sense. This fact has been borne out already in Chelsea and the Meat Market, where real estate values have appreciated considerably, in part, because of the elevated rail line’s renaissance, and star architects have flocked to build innovative structures nearby. According to Friends of the High Line’s 2002 study — which presumed that properties close to parks and open space, such as the High Line, see their values increase between 10 and 14 percent compared to other nearby properties — the High Line would bring incremental tax revenue of nearly $200 million to the city. An updated version of the study adjusted that figure to more than $400 million. The city recently completed its own study that said the High Line has already created $950 million in real estate value.

That alone is a strong argument for preserving the northern section of the High Line around the Hudson Yards rail yards, despite some developers’ arguments to the contrary.

In addition, the High Line will drive tourism in New York City and the Hudson Yards, helping the city to fill the many new hotels that are sprouting up all over Manhattan. As Robert Hammond, F.H.L.’s co-founder, points out, the 2007 edition of Lonely Planet’s New York City travel guide contains five mentions of the High Line — and the High Line park’s first section has yet to open. Clearly, this unique park will be a major draw for New York City for the rest of the century.

From an urban planning perspective, preserving the High Line is equally compelling. The northern section affords unparalleled views as it wraps around the rail yards, skirting the Hudson River with views looking onto New Jersey, the Empire State Building and the rest of Midtown. Preserving this section enables the rail line to connect three neighborhoods in a way that nothing else can.

From a historic preservation standpoint, the High Line would be the only original remnant in an area of otherwise new, giant, surrounding development, lending charm and character. It will also endure as a reminder of the rail and industrial history of the Lower West Side, since the rail yards will be platformed over to support all the new development. Finally, unlike the old Penn Station, which was a thriving architectural gem laid to waste by an appalling lack of vision and poor urban planning, the High Line, which awaits its turn to be brought back to life, represents ideas and possibilities. We have a chance to get it right this time.