NYC Highline: A Haven 30 Feet Above Chaos

Elevated above three of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods, the New York City Highline reclaims its home with purpose. In 1930, West Chelsea, the Meat Packing District and Clinton were neighborhoods that thrived on the production and distribution of fresh meat and similar products. These neighborhoods were therefore comprised of industrial buildings that required specific types of transportation. This led to the construction of the Highline in 1930. The park was built above ground and ran through West Chelsea, the Meat Packing District and Clinton as an elevated train. Because the train was built 30 feet in the air, it eliminated the danger of large trains running through the streets of New York City. The train also proved to be an efficient delivery tactic since it was also able to transport meat and other products directly to the upper levels of the factories and warehouses. Despite its proficiency in the 1930s, the Highline has not had trains run since 1980, allowing it to face the risk of demolition. Consequently, the neighborhoods below have undergone a change in their business and image; the large factories and warehouses that once slaughtered and sold pigs, proved to be perfect for glamorous backdrops in many of today’s films and photo shoots. Undergoing a huge metamorphosis, the meat packing district’s slaughter house’s transformed into art galleries, design and photography studios, night clubs and fashion boutiques, leaving the Highline completely obsolete. In an attempt to stop its demolition, Friends of the Highline was founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond who were residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and aimed to re-open the Highline as a public space that preserved its historical importance as well as fit in with the changed neighborhood. In 2001, the Design Trust for Public Spaces provided an architect fellowship that allowed the creation of a plan for the reopen of the highline however it was not until 2003 that an open idea competition opened to come up with design ideas for the reopen of the highline. This competition included 720 teams from 36 different countries all entering different ideas for the space. In March 2004, an idea was selected from a landscaping architect firm. The plan included a public park that showcased public art exhibits. The construction began in 2006 and is still an ongoing project. With much of the Highline remodeled and completed, the park is now one of the main New York City attractions. The Highline’s height provides a great view of Manhattan from the east allowing one the perfect opportunity to still feel like a part of the city without the chaos on ground level. Looking to the west the Highline supplies a fantastic view of the Hudson river, a peaceful and serene view that one does not usually find elsewhere in Manhattan.