Sunday, November 30, 2008

High Expectations for Chelsea's High Line

I USED TO WORK VERY CLOSE to the High Line, the venerable elevated railway that used to serve industries along the West Side of Manhattan. I had been dimly aware, as the involuntary end of my employment there approached, of efforts to transform the route into a park. There was a ceremony at the High Line in '07, before I left that job, presumably to celebrate the start of restorative work or the unveiling of plans, I don't recall exactly which. But the city was definitely moving forward in getting it ready to share with the people at large.

I was reminded of these efforts by a story in today's New York Times on the continuing work on the Line, as well as real estate projects around it, in what writer Amy Cortese calls "some of the most ambitious development in the city in years." In the middle of a fierce economic downturn, New York City is forging ahead with a public-works project to rededicate a utility route to civic good. Well done.

I used to walk around the High Line neighborhood during idle times at that job, soaking in the old architecture, marveling at the cobblestones still paving the streets in some spots of the Meatpacking District, admiring the boutiques and galleries that inhabit former commercial spaces. As time and developers claim the decades-old brick-and-iron edifices that face Jersey, the chance to glimpse them from the height of the High Line is one I greatly anticipate.

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