A Lesson in Civic Action

Written by admin on . Posted in On Topic OTDT, Opinion and Column.


I have the lowdown on the , that new downtown park which covers the train tracks on the “lower west side.”

I will admit I did not journey down to the Meatpacking District just to see it. I had taken my daughter to play with some friends in the area and stopped by the neighborhood’s new attraction on the way home.

If you’re unfamiliar, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated, steel structure built in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets. The last train ran on it in 1980.

The elevated park runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 20th Street in Chelsea, between 10th and 11th avenues. The plan is to take it all the way to the original end of the line, at West 34th Street. (FYI: no dogs, bikes or rollerblades.)

The park is the culmination of 10 years of advocacy, planning and construction by Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit, private partner to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, whose goal was to create a monument to the industrial history of New York’s West Side, as well as an innovative public space.

It was designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who have juxtaposed meandering concrete pathways, grass and steel from the remaining train tracks.

This I had to see. For those of us Uptowners who consider Central Park our backyard, my first reaction was, “You call this a park?” And the views of the Hudson to the west and the Village to the east are not much to speak of. But in all fairness, it is better than it was; that is, no longer an abandoned eyesore and waste of space. It’s much nicer to stroll that area (which although residential, still has a gritty industrial vibe) from above than below.

Even though area residents already have Chelsea Piers and the bike path by the West Side Highway, it’s nice that they now have somewhere else to go that is free, new and clean. They are, in fact, much better off than our Times Square neighbors, who have lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway, which is the most bizarre, not to mention unappealing, jitter-inducing thing I’ve ever seen.

The High Line has better-than-average park benches, some in the shape of lounge chairs. And right around 17th Street they are constructing a seating area with an observation window, so you can sit right over Tenth Avenue and watch the traffic.

I don’t think I’d go there just to hang out, but if I were in the area again I’d definitely pay another visit out of respect to those who worked so hard to see the project to fruition. To me, the High Line is really a monument to what New Yorkers can get done when they want to improve their neighborhoods.

I hope that like Friends of the High Line, The Gracie Point Community Council on the Upper East Side is as successful at improving its neighborhood by defeating the planned Marine Transfer Station (a.k.a. the garbage dump), a 10-story facility across from Asphalt Green which will draw 80 trucks an hour circling East End and York avenues. The smell, the vermin, the disease!

Perhaps as they did with the eco-friendly High Line, our city officials will do what’s best for the Upper East Side and take the garbage away from this or any residential area. It’s called the High Road.

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