The last train ran the track in the 1980s. A Chelsea resident and railroad enthusiast Peter Obletz worked hard to get the trains up and running again (in vain, but he was in part responsible for keeping the tracks from being torn down), but it was a group called Friends of the High Line, started by Joshua David and Robert Hammond in 1999, which finally found a way to save the High Line tracks for good. All they had to do was convince the city to make it into a protected park. They conducted a study in 2002 which proved that “New tax revenues created by the public space will be greater than the costs of construction.” Bingo!
One thing led to another, and then in 2003, a big Designing the High Line competition was held to figure out how to make the best use of the tracks. The winning design came from by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Their orginal designs were displayed at MoMa in 2005, and you can view the final designs here.
Completion is finally underway, and the first section, running from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened last month to the public! What’s it like? Well, it’s certainly unlike any park I’ve ever visited. But why listen to me yammer on about it when you can listen to Kevin Bacon, Diane Von Furstenberg and Ethan Hawke?
The Sundance Channel, as part of their “Online Only Orignal Content” series, has a collection of videos of public figures talking about the High Line called High Line Stories. You can watch Kevin’s commentary above, and click here to see the rest.