New York’s High-Line

Suspended two stories above Manhattan’s West Side lies an urban oasis, the High Line. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation turned an unused elevated train track into the city’s newest park. Originally designed in the 1930’s to elevate freight away from pedestrian traffic, the elevated tracks now serve as the foundation for a pedestrian-only park.

Landscaping on High Line & High Line as seen from street below – Photographs by David Ben

When the High Line’s first section opened on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, it was the first half-mile of what will ultimately be a mile and a half long park. Designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the park features several species of grasses, flowers, and trees that intermingle almost seamlessly at points with the concrete walkways.

Some sections include the original railroad lines embedded into the plantings as a reminder of the original function of the elevated path. Other parts use those lines as the foundation for rolling lounge chairs.

Designers also seem to have taken into account the green possibilities of managing water in the park. Drinking fountains placed intermittently allow water runoff to hydrate the plants directly. Additionally, portions of the walkway are intentionally pitched so that rainwater is redirected into the plants.

High Line water fountain & Drainage system on High Line – Photographs by David Ben

Managing water runoff accomplishes two goals. First, redirecting excess water to the plants reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, saving water and ultimately saving the tax payer from funding the infrastructure and the maintenance cost of watering the plants. Second, diverting rainwater reduces stress on the sewer system because the water is absorbed by the dirt. From there, it is naturally filtered before it makes its way into the plants or evaporates. In the event of heavy rain, this process still works to slow the water down and filter it before it enters the sewer.

The high line demonstrates that urban livability and the outdated infrastructure need not stand in opposition. Its inception also speaks to the myriad of possibilities Cincinnati has for recreating urban vitality through re-imagining the space around us. Anyone have any ideas for Cincinnati’s skywalk system, the mistake that was the 71/75 corridor bisecting downtown, or anything else around town?

I’ve also got a ton more pics. Let me know if you want to see them.