More High Line, not less.
So NYC created this marvelous thing called the High Line and it’s popular. At certain times of the day it’s even crowded (not at 8am, when the locals go). This is a problem?
I refuse to cry about tourists on the High Line. But this bitter opinion piece in The New York Times by Jeremiah Moss does just that—he points a finger at one of our newest treasures and equates it with the Disney-fication of Times Square, as though this park is somehow responsible for a more commercialized, consumerist Chelsea. That’s lazy critique, like equating a cruise ship with a schooner. He oversimplifies Chelsea and our city’s socio-economic politics in general by scapegoating one of the best things that’s happened in New York in a hundred years. Hop on over to Moss’s blog and read the comments for even more misguided High Line bashing.
Is there income inequality in NYC? Absolutely. Is it getting worse? Yes. I’m as upset about zoning chaos and overdevelopment in NYC as anyone. But blaming the High Line for the loss of our city’s middle class misses the point, like blaming the medicine for the cough. This daring piece of urban planning—once a fringe fantasy—is very much what we wished for. We should dare to dream for more High Lines throughout New York City.
Jeremiah says that Chelsea is in danger of losing the “regular New Yorkers” that once called this home, but somehow forgets to mention that the High Line passes through/near three huge low-income housing projects (Penn South, Chelsea-Elliot and Fulton Houses), bringing free access to green space, light and air to one of the most diverse, dynamic, mixed-income and mixed-age neighborhood downtown. Plenty of “regular New Yorkers” live here in Chelsea—above, beside, under and on the High Line—and they’re not going anywhere. I challenge anyone to walk along Ninth or Tenth Avenues between 14th Street and 23th and observe a more “regular” (I would call it thrilling) slice of life in this city.
So we’ve lost gas stations, parking garages and autobody shops on Tenth Avenue? Good. I won’t lament the loss of cars crowding Manhattan streets. For every one of these businesses lost I will point to five more locally-owned small businesses absolutely thriving in Chelsea—some of them brand new, some of them here for decades.
It’s difficult for me to imagine a more democratic, accessible or enjoyable idea of a park now that I’ve lived with the High Line in my backyard for a couple of years. Instead, think about how Guiliani’s proposal to tear down the High Line structure would have impacted Chelsea, a neighborhood that’s experienced a 75%+ reduction in crime since 1990.
A much more difficult and more appropriate question to ask is this one: why don’t we fund projects like the High Line in the Bronx or East New York?
Oh wait—we did, once upon a time.
If people want to get nostalgic for “old New York” then let’s look back to the explosion of civic growth in the 1890s that gave us museums, libraries, parks and zoos throughout New York City—not just Manhattan—that are still enjoyed today. The lesson isn’t “less High Line”—it’s more. And more support from local gov and developers, more sustainable models for funding these kinds of projects, and new ways to ensure that our future High Lines can survive and better serve all New Yorkers.