Mayor Bloomberg and Friends Of The High Line host rail lifting ceremony to mark start of construction of New York City’s newest park on west side elevated rail structure
Mayor Also Announces $5 Million Private Gift from Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Friends of the High Line (FHL) Co-Founders Robert Hammond and Joshua David today hosted a unique groundbreaking ceremony on top of the High Line elevated rail structure, heralding the start of construction of the first phase of New York City’s eagerly anticipated park. To mark the occasion, the City’s contractors lifted one of the few remaining railroad tracks in the first section of the 1.5-mile-long High Line to be converted to park use. This first section of the park will run from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, and is projected to open in Spring 2008. During the ceremony, the Mayor also announced a $5 million gift to the High Line project from the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation; the gift marks the start of a major fundraising effort by Friends of the High Line (FHL), in cooperation with the City of New York, to attract private funds to the construction of the park and establish an endowment for future programming and operations.
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, Representative Jerrold Nadler, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel L. Doctoroff, City Planning Director Amanda M. Burden, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, FHL Board of Directors Member Edward Norton and FHL supporters historian Robert Caro and actor Kevin Bacon attended the announcement atop the High Line at West 14th Street.
“It’s a great day when we can begin construction on a new park that will serve New Yorkers for years to come,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I’m especially pleased to see the Diller – von Furstenberg family’s leadership in bringing private support to this historic public project, which will turn an abandoned remnant of our past into a prized possession for future generations. The High Line serves as a powerful example of the extraordinary things that can be accomplished when New Yorkers work together to build something important for our future. When it’s complete, it will be a one-of-a-kind elevated open space uniting the Gansevoort Historic District, West Chelsea and the Hudson Yards, enhancing the value and the quality of living in these West Side neighborhoods, and creating a unique destination for New Yorkers and visitors to our City.”
Today’s ceremony marks the official start of construction of a park on the High Line elevated rail structure. Construction will start with site preparation (2006-7), which includes removal of rail tracks and ballast, comprehensive waterproofing, and stripping and painting of all steel. This will be followed by construction of the public landscape (2007-8), which includes access systems (stairs and elevators), pathways, plantings, seating, lighting, safety enhancements and other features. A preliminary design for the first phase of the High Line’s transformation, by the design team of Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, can be viewed at www.thehighline.org.
The design will continue to evolve as the project moves through site preparation to the start of construction of the public landscape.
“Breaking ground on the High Line will kick-start West Side development and break the culture of inertia that has plagued the area,” said Senator Schumer. “Anyone who lives or works in Midtown West, Chelsea, or the Meatpacking District knows that the one thing this area lacks is open space. Converting the High Line into a world class park that is original and different from any other, it will become a true gem of the West Side.”
“Today, as we celebrate the High Line, a terrific public project, we also celebrate the open, collaborative process between communities and their elected leaders that has allowed this project to progress,” said Senator Clinton. “It will be exciting to see this initiative move forward to create a great public amenity – a unique destination where New Yorkers will be able to find a peaceful oasis above the hustle and bustle of the city streets.”
“Once called the ‘Life Line of New York,’ for decades this historic railway played a vital role in the life of the West Side, bringing food, goods, and raw materials into the City,” said Representative Nadler. “Its impending transformation means that the High Line will benefit generations of New Yorkers for decades to come. As a member of the New York Assembly, I fought for its preservation in the 20th Century, and I am thrilled to have contributed to its rebirth in the 21st.”
“I started working on the High Line when it was the dream of a handful of residents that I represent as the Council Member from the 3rd District,” said Speaker Quinn. “Now it has grown into a project that benefits our entire city, and I’m pleased to be able to work as Speaker to create seven acres of much-needed new parkland.”
“This park shows the amazing things that can be created by the talented, hardworking people of the Borough of Manhattan,” said Borough President Stringer. “We lead the country in many creative fields so it’s only appropriate that we should tap two world-renowned landscape and architecture firms, Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, both of whom are based in Manhattan, to create a park design that epitomizes the visionary thinking of this City.”
“The High Line epitomizes the promise of the West Side,” said Deputy Mayor Doctoroff. “Nowhere else in the world will there be anything like the High Line – a park 30 feet in the air, cutting through the center of city blocks, passing through converted factories, and inspiring some of the world’s greatest architects to create new buildings to house the new residents and new jobs that will continue to make New York dynamic and strong. This project will accrue immeasurable benefits to the City and enhance its residents’ quality of life.”
With today’s announcement of a $5 million gift from the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the current funding total for the project is almost $130 million – approximately $103 million of which is public funds including $33 million from the City and $45.75 million from the City Council. In January 2005, $3 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funding was allocated by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s New York City Transportation Coordinating Committee. In August 2005, Senators Schumer and Clinton and U.S. Representative Nadler announced they had secured $18 million in capital funding in the multi-year federal transportation bill. These elected officials also brought $1.5 million to the project in appropriations bills in 2004 and 2005. In addition, State Assemblymember Gottfried worked to bring $50,000 in State Multi-Modal Transportation Program funds to the project. Lastly, as part of the City’s rezoning of West Chelsea, a provision was added that allows developers at three sites to build additional floor area in exchange for High Line improvements, and this is anticipated to account for another $22 million in private funding for the project. Total cost for both Phase 1 and 2 of the project is estimated at $170 million, with much of the remainder expected to be raised privately.
“There are very few activities as fulfilling as enriching the life of a great city,” said Barry Diller. “The transformation of the High Line into a park that future generations will forever enjoy is a joyful prospect for our family. We hope this gift will stimulate others who care about New York, especially this High Line District, where we are now both involved in building projects for ourselves and our companies.”
“The start of construction also begins a transformation at Friends of the High Line, which began as an advocacy group fighting to save the High Line in 1999,” said FHL’s Robert Hammond. “Now, we will refocus our energies to raise private funds for the park’s construction and for its future maintenance and programming. We owe a debt to established park conservancies – like the Central Park Conservancy – for demonstrating the importance of private support for public parks, and we are confident that the exemplary leadership of the Diller – von Furstenberg family will encourage other visionary individuals to step forward and provide the critical resources we need to build, maintain, and program this one-of-a-kind public amenity.”
Friends of the High Line (FHL), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, began advocating for the High Line’s reuse as public open space in 1999. In 2002, the Bloomberg Administration endorsed the project when it filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) requesting authorization to create a railbanked trail on the High Line. The STB gave that authorization, in the form of a Certificate of Interim Trail Use (CITU), in June 2005. That same month the West Chelsea neighborhood surrounding the High Line was rezoned to support its reuse as a public space, to provide opportunities for new residential and commercial development, and to enhance the neighborhood’s thriving art gallery district. That rezoning plan is being recognized later this month with a national planning award by the American Planning Association.
“The High Line is an irreplaceable opportunity for the City of New York,” said City Planning Director Burden. “At the Mayor’s direction, we devised unique zoning tools to serve the multiple goals preserving and transforming the High Line, protecting the art gallery district, and creating new housing and an economically integrated neighborhood.”
“The development of the High Line demonstrates our commitment to finding innovative ways to continue the greening of New York City,” said Commissioner Benepe. “Piet Oudolf’s inventive planting designs will provide a powerful horticultural experience that will provide a meditative oasis of over a hundred different plant and tree species that will rival the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”
“We are delighted that our donation of the High Line to the City of New York will result in a new public space for residents and tourists to enjoy,” said CSX Corporation Vice President for Federal Regulation and General Counsel Peter Shudtz. “This exciting day would not have been possible without the dedication and coordination of many in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. We are especially appreciative of the partnership and commitment of the Bloomberg Administration to turn this property into a public amenity, and we commend the vision and persistence of Robert Hammond and Joshua David of Friends of the High Line who tirelessly advocated for the High Line’s reuse.”
The City acquired the title to the High Line elevated rail viaduct from CSX Transportation, Inc., in November 2005. That same month, the City and CSX signed a Trail Use Agreement, permitting the rail structure to be used by the public as a recreational amenity. Construction officially began this month and the first section of the High Line is projected to open to the public in 2008. The High Line is an active construction site and not open to the public at this time; trespassers are subject to prosecution.
A public, street-level celebration across the street from the High Line followed the official groundbreaking ceremony. The celebration, sponsored by Chelsea Market, featured theatrical tributes to the industrial history of the High Line, and music by the marching band of the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies, a public school on West 17th Street.