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The Highline

"True ornament is not a matter of prettifying externals. It is organic with the structure it adorns, whether a person, a building, or a park." - Frank Lloyd Wright

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In 1929, the New York City had had enough.

The railroad operating on 10th Ave had become so treacherous, that men rode horses in front of the train waving red flags for safety. Frequent accidents and increasing street traffic prompted the city to finally take action. Highline, the elevated train, was erected in 1934 as part of the West Side Improvement Act. The project was a success with freight trains operating until 1980, ending only as trucks became the preferred mode of transport. The site was abandoned, gathering rust and weeds, until 1999, when local residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond founded "Friends of the Highline", a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and opening the rail line to the public.

After years of raising awareness and funds, the historical Highline was donated to the City of New York and plans began to design the park it would become. In June 2009, the steps (and elevators) were finally opened to an awed public. The layout of the park is intentionally natural, with the majority of plants being native to New York. The gardens are constructed to retain the majority of rainwater that falls on them, supporting the landscape's sustainability. Every stretch of the old rail line draws on the original industrial facade, from steel rail ties bordering flower beds to the rusty wheels that support the wooden lounge chairs on the south deck. The seamless design is captivating in its elegant simplicity, and seems to be the finest architecture in any NYC public park.

Open only a few months, the park has already established a long agenda of events, including screenings, yoga, and events for children. Highline's momentum won't slow anytime soon, either; because the entire park is not even finished yet. It's estimated that the northern 10 blocks will open in 2010, extending the park form the Meatpacking District up through Chelsea to 30th Street.

Now such a fond spot for locals, the Highline has finally found some comfort in recapturing her usefulness for New Yorkers. Instead of carting meats, milk, and produce, she bears the lighter burden of footsteps, quiet contemplation, and the occasional picnic.


For more information, visit http://www.thehighline.org/