Why? Perhaps because it’s located 30 feet above the city streets. Perhaps because it’s a rail line that few knew it was there. Perhaps because it may be the only rail-to-trail linear park entirely on an elevated steel viaduct.
Also, it is a new approach to the creation of a linear park. The linear park, pioneered by Fredrick Law Olmsted with Boston’s Emerald Necklace, is typically characterized by one or modes of transportation facilities weaving through a long park corridor. High Line Park weaves a pedestrian esplanade with park landscaping within the linear corridor of this Westside viaduct.
High Line Park was one the New York Central Railroad’s West Side fright line, high above 10th Avenue in Manhattan. It was built in the 1930s to replace the street-running tracks that served the Hudson River piers and other industrial customers. The railroad used men on horseback, nicknamed “cowboys,” to guide the trains through the city streets.
1. It removed the conflicts of running freight trains through busy city streets
2. It was electrified and eliminated the use of steam engines
The elevated line served many west-side customers for years. But with the dawn of interstate highways and the shifting of freight from trains to trucks, the line feel into disuse in the 1970s and abandonment in the 1980s. Interestingly, the out-of-service line remained in the ownership of Conrail and was even transferred to CSX in the Conrail breakup.
As with most unneeded and abandoned structures, the High Line was scheduled for demolition. However, others had another vision. What some saw as an eyesore, others saw as a most unique and interesting “place.” It is above and away from the bustle of the sidewalks and streets. It provides a unique view of the city. And it is an opportunity to provide new open space without demolishing any buildings to create it.
The Friends of the High Line and others advocated for the vision of a park for years. Finally, it has become a reality, as the first segment opens.