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Near the High Line, a Parking Lot With High Ambition

Near the High Line, a Parking Lot With High Ambition

The New York Times 5/24/2011


It is a pop-up plaza in a vacant parking lot. It is an art installation. It is a food truck food court. It is an alfresco tap room. It is a community event space.

And, right now, it is a parking lot in Manhattan.

But soon it will be transformed into a public gathering spot called the Lot at 30th Street, its organizers, Friends of the High Line, announced on Tuesday.

Appropriately located at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, it is but 10 steps from the soon-to-be-opened northern entrance to the High Line, the elevated public park near the Hudson River that extends from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street and 10th Avenue.

In June, the new half-mile, second section of the High Line, from 20th Street to 30th Street, is scheduled to open to the public. This summer, one million visitors are expected to visit the park, according to Friends of the Highline. The northern entrance is a staircase and an elevator, with views of the river and the Javits Convention Center. But it leads down to nothing more than a parking lot, a chain-link fence bordering the railyard and the loading docks of the United States Postal Service sorting center at 10th Avenue.

“It just dead-ends; there is no there there,” said Robert Hammond, a founder of Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group that helped block efforts to demolish the defunct rail viaduct and helped design its renovation. “So instead of having visitors turn around and head back south, we wanted to give people something to do and to see — and to activate the neighborhood.”

To create a synthetic destination in this no man’s land, the Lot at the High Line has been lent by its owners, the Related Companies and Abington Properties, for the summer. (Construction of a residential tower is to begin on the property in the fall.)

The Lot will offer an outdoor 350-seat bar under the High Line called the Lot on Tap; it will be operated by Colicchio & Sons, the chef Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, which is at the High Line on 15th Street and 10th Avenue. The High Line’s support girders and eight-inch concrete slab will be the roof. The Lot on Tap will offer domestic wines and local beers, including Brooklyn High Line Elevated Wheat (a new beer made by Brooklyn Brewery to be sold exclusively at the Lot on Tap), as well as nonalcoholic drinks.

Mr. Colicchio will also be the “curator” of a rotating collection of five or more food trucks offering lobster rolls from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus, tacos from the Taco Truck, falafel and smoothies from Taim Mobile and cold drinks from Kelvin Natural Slush Company.

“We’ll be offering food that is sustainable, and local, and that goes well with beer and wine — and that isn’t terribly expensive,” Mr. Colicchio said. “We’ll be setting up our own outdoor raw bar, too, and, eventually, a grill for simple things like steak sandwiches,” he added. He predicted daily crowds of 1,200 to 2,000.

In its 20,000-square-foot eastern section, the Lot will also offer a public art exhibition, “Rainbow City,” a collection of large, bulbous, parti-colored inflatable sculptures by Friends With You, an art-and-design collective based in Miami. “This is for everyone, including families,” said Maureen Sullivan, chief marketing officer of AOL, which is paying for the installation as well as “a series of school programs bringing children to the sculpture.”

The Lot’s development price will be about $200,000 (the cost of the first two High Line sections was $153 million), and it is being designed by the High Line’s architectural team, James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio & Renfro in Manhattan. The Lot will be open seven days a week; food and beverages will be available 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The rail line, built from 1928 to 1934, bade farewell to its last freight-train run in 1980. The city is negotiating to add to the park a third, privately owned, unopened half-mile section that skirts the rail yard north of 30th Street, curving east to 12th Avenue.

Mr. Hammond, whose group will operate the Lot, foresees restaurants, shops and diversions in the area, given that the once-scruffy, quasi-menacing southern end of the High Line is now a haute shopping and real estate festival that condominium advertisements call “the prestigious High Line District.”