High Liners are spurred to action to save last third

By Albert Amateau

Friends of the High Line and members of Community Board 4 told the City Council Zoning Committee on Tuesday that saving the High Line’s northern third that curves around the rail yards from 30th St. to 34th St. is a top priority.

About 50 High Line friends, wearing red T-shirts with a white line representing the elevated rail road, crowded into the small hearing room at 250 Broadway to support the plea to save the looping section of the line and the spur that extends east across 10th Ave. to the Morgan Annex post office.

“Save the High Line at the Rail Yards,” was the war cry.

Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, whose efforts convinced Mayor Bloomberg in 2001 to support the idea of converting the derelict rail line into a park, led the charge.

Representatives of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and state Senator Tom Duane joined the chorus praising the High Line’s northern section.

But saving the segment is easier said than done.

The southern third of the elevated railroad running along 10th Ave. — the section between Gansevoort and 20th Sts. — is scheduled to open as a new park in mid-June. Work on the middle third — between 20th and 30th Sts. — is underway. But the last third — the viaduct section that loops around the rail yards — is in limbo.

Unlike the segment between Gansevoort and 20th Sts., which is owned by the city, the segment wrapping around the rail yards between 10th and 12th Aves. is still the property of the railroad company CSX.

The rail yards themselves are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and are part of the city-sponsored Hudson Yards project area being redeveloped by The Related Companies.

Hammond told the committee on March 31 that the zoning for the Hudson Yards does not mention anything about preserving the High Line. The High Line is unprotected and at risk north of 30th St., he said.

“We need a comprehensive solution to ensure preservation of the historic High Line in its entirety,” Hammond said. “Specifically, the city should initiate the process to acquire the remaining portion of the High Line from CSX as the first step toward preservation of the structure.”

The official subject of the hearing, conducted by Councilmember Tony Avella of Queens, had nothing to do with the High Line. Rather, it was about two amendments that The Related Companies was seeking to the Hudson Yards project zoning text concerning the Eastern Rail Yards between 10th and 11th Aves.

Nevertheless, Vishaan Chakrabarti, vice president of Related, in charge of the Hudson Yards Project — who served on Friends of the High Line’s board of directors when he worked for the Department of City Planning — told the committee that Related supports the High Line. In fact, Related has built a residential building virtually under the High Line at 17th St., Chakrabarti noted.

Hammond said Related has indicated that the company is in favor of preserving the loop around the rail yards, but that Related is uncertain about the spur. He noted that when the New York Central Railroad built the spur in 1934, the spur handled as many as 36 carloads of mail on a single day.

Hammond said that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has gone on record supporting the High Line, and he urged the Council Zoning Committee to support city acquisition of the northern loop and the spur.