Tag Archives: The High Line Park

completion of the High Line September 21, 2014

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Before it was constructed, the New York Central Railroad had operated a rail freight line at grade, or street level, along Tenth Avenue, and men on horseback (“West Side cowboys”) had ridden ahead of the train with red flags or lanterns to warn pedestrians of its coming; yet even with this picturesque alarm system, so many careless, inebriated or simply unlucky citizens had gotten run over that the street acquired the notorious name “Death Avenue.” For over 70 years, since the mid-19th century, public outcry had agitated against this danger to life and limb, demanding a safer solution: thus, the High Line.” (Here.)

Completed September 21, 2014, the High Line park has now become many things to many people, its Rashomon effect hashed out in the comments section of the many articles written about its success. It’s been five years since the first phase opened, with the third and final phase finished this fall. Over that span of time, my unadulterated delight at the railway’s rebirth into a park with plantings designed by Piet Oudolf has become complicated by learning of many other divergent reactions, and quite a few outright hostile ones, including accusing the park of being a Trojan Horse hiding rapacious developers. Because of the unimagined success of its new life as a beloved city park and tourist destination, drawing 5 million a year, it’s easy to forget its humble origins in community activism. I’ve seen neighborhood activism up close, and it isn’t always pretty. Contentious, divisive, disillusioning, these are what come to mind. Semi-contemporaneous with the grass-roots conversion of the disused railway line into a public park in NYC, my neighborhood association in Los Angeles was also involved in a grass roots effort concerning a property suffering from extreme landlord neglect, a property that slipped in and out of drug dealing. After years of frustrating engagement with the city at all levels, code, police, planning, the property seemed to magically accelerate on a fast track to a “pocket park,’ a cherished pipe dream of neighborhood activists. All of a sudden, the long-sought grant money was there, the city’s will was no longer wobbly but strong, and after years of dead-end efforts, the pocket park was a go. Plans were approved, the troubled property was sacrificed on the altar of eminent domain, and the park is now a year old. (I had nothing to do with the process, only attending a couple meetings and ceremonies.) The differences in scale between the two projects couldn’t be more stark, but I have to admit I had my doubts that either project would ever get off the ground. Another difference is that, unlike the High Line project, everyone in our neighborhood is wildly enthusiastic about our result. But then our neighborhood is in no danger of developers rushing in to build luxury penthouses to take advantage of views of our pocket park. (Some might say more’s the pity!)


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The High Line experienced a similar acceleration when Giuliani and his pro-demolition sympathies left office, replaced by Michael Bloomberg, whose new agenda included finding innovative ways to include more parks despite the seemingly maxed-out density of NYC. The dream of a park in the sky found a powerful champion. With the completion of the final phase, and housebound with a sore throat, I dug a little deeper into the formation of the High Line, and what I found was a mulligan stew of community activism, timely rezoning, and a strange concept called “air rights,” mixed with insatiable appetites for high-end real estate development. The gentrifcation of this former manufacturing neighborhood was going to happen with or without the High Line. As with so many American cities, manufacturing had long decamped. Art galleries and designer ateliers had already moved in. Businesses directly under the disused structure were agitating for its removal to develop their valuable properties skyward. Ultimately, what came to the rescue of these disgruntled businesses as well as park proponents was ingenious manipulation of TDRs (Transferable Development Rights). And built into plans for the High Line’s redesign were considerations for unopposed views and open space that arguably wouldn’t have been a vision for this neighborhood’s growth had the High Line been demolished.

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High Line Adjacency Controls: Required Open Space
A minimum of 20% of the lot area would be required to be reserved as landscaped open space. To provide a visual extension of the High Line, the required open space would be located adjacent to and at a height not to exceed the level of the High Line. The required open space could not front on Tenth Avenue and could be used as a public or private space
.” (Here.)


But back to the inception. The owners of the railway, CSX, who acquired it from Conrail in 1998, resisted the swelling outcry for demolition and opted instead to commission a study of potential uses. (Bless CSX for that.) Rail banking was a proposal that intrigued neighborhood residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond, both in attendance at that meeting unveiling the results of the study. (My community garden lies in a disused railway easement, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also a beneficiary of rail banking.) After that momentous meeting, David and Hammond formed the nonprofit Friends of the High Line, fully in support of a park use for the railway.

Along with requisitioning the potential use study, CSX fortuitously hired photographer Joel Sternfeld, whose evocative photos were just the boost the proposed park needed.


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photo by Joel Sternfeld 2000

One of the single most important things that happened to save the High Line in the very early days was when CSX made it possible for Joel Sternfeld’s project to photograph the High Line,” says David.
“They basically made it possible for the world to see what was on top of the High Line.
” (Here.)

In the beginning, we didn’t know what the High Line should ultimately look like. We didn’t know exactly what the design should be. We always thought the community and the city should decide what it should be. Over time, people coalesced around Joel’s photo and when you asked them, “What do you want the High Line to be?” they’d point to Joel’s photos and they’d say, “I want it to be like that.” In some ways, that was the biggest inspiration behind the design, Joel’s photos of the landscape.” (Interview with Robert Hammond Here.)

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Now when I see pictures of just the High Line without any people, I realize it wasn’t as good.
It’s really beautiful when you have people interacting with the new landscape of the High Line
.” — Robert Hammond Here.

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What was striking is that in all my reading, not once was the amazingly complex plantsmanship of Piet Oudolf cited as part of the appeal that lures so many to the High Line.
Through his plantings, Oudolf matched the spirit of Sternfeld’s photos of the abandoned railway recolonized by plants.

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Where once there was a clang and clamor of industry, the noisy, physical manifestation of America’s 20th Century manufacturing might, the old railway has been repurposed for another kind of movement that seems to strike some as aimless, idle, purposeless: people making multivaried use of a park.

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The fact that this new amenity sprang from older industrial infrastructure says a lot about the current moment in New York’s evolution. A city that had once pioneered so many technological and urban planning solutions, that had dazzled the world with its public works, its skyscrapers, bridges, subways, water-delivery system, its Central Park, palatial train stations, libraries and museums, appears unable to undertake any innovative construction on a grand scale, and is now consigned to cannibalizing its past and retrofitting it to function as an image, a consumable spectacle. Productivity has given way to narcissism; or, to put it more charitably, work has yielded to leisure.” (Here.)

I would argue that instead of cannibalizing the past, the past has been honored and included in the present moment, which is a continuum that the wisest cities respect.
I would argue that the High Line gives all of us, not just the 1 percent, million-dollar views of New York.
And the fact that funding was found for a park (a park!) and not another sports arena still strikes me as extraordinary and reason enough to celebrate.

I’ve included photos of one of my visits to the High Line in June 2013.

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Railroad lines crisscrossing the country move freight, delivering everything from coal to cars.
But one rail line running above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side moves your soul, delivering sanctuary amid coneflower and pink evening primrose
.” (Here.)


Reading for this post can found at these links:

http://www.thehighline.org/

http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-nyc-mayor-bloombergs-urban-planning-legacy.html

http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/portfolio/subramanian/HighLine_Resident.html

http://www.asla.org/ContentDetail.aspx?id=34419

http://www.hraadvisors.com/featured/the-high-line/#&panel1-4

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/under-the-high-line-a-gay-past/

http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2005/july-august/taking-the-high-line.html

Developers Want Easier Access to High Line Air Rights; But Should City Fix Something That Doesn’t Look Broken?

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/sponsorvideo/improbable-journey-the-story-of-new-yorks-high-line

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/westchelsea/westchelsea3b.shtml

Bloom Day May 2014

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Thank goodness, unlike me, some like it hot, such as Dalea purpurea. the Purple Prairie Clover.
Zoned only as far as 8* and not recommended too far south, so zone 10 was a gamble as far as lack of winter dormancy.
Might not be long-lived here, but it’s putting on a good show for a young plant.
(*to clarify, for zones 3-8. I’m always concerned about a plant’s winter chill needs and heat tolerance.)

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I duplicated how I saw it planted at the Highline, close in to the walkway to admire its outline, but I’ll probably add more amongst the phlomis and other shrubby stuff. The bees will thank me profusely.
Its deep tap root handles dry conditions beautifully. You can imagine how much water it’s getting planted amongst agaves and succulents, which is next to none.
The legume family is full of such interesting characters. There’s a white form too, Dalea candida, but I’m fine with magenta.

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A succulent I like as much for its flowers as leaves, Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii

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This annual grass doesn’t reseed much, but every bit of it is a treasure. Briza maxima

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ planted last fall, exploded into growth with the heat.

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Wonderful little pelargonium whose name I’ve misplaced, gets clipped back when it encroaches on Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi.’
(If you need cuttings, just ask. And then let me know if and when you ID it. Possibly P. trifidum?)

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More heat lovers, gazanias and gaillardias

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Various iterations of self-sowing nicotianas shrugged off temperatures over 100, a rarity here a mile from the ocean, where we’ve previously never felt the need to install air conditioning in this old drafty bungalow.

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Solanum pyracanthum wintered over and got an early start in spring.

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Most worrisome was anything spring-planted, like this Glaucium grandiflorum

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But except for some sad heat damage on the big-leaved agaves, we all limped relatively unscathed through the second record-breaking heat wave of May 2014.
My survival strategy for the next one involves researching old camping cots on craigslist. I’m planning a camping theme for the east patio. I haven’t slept outdoors in quite a while.
When life deals you heat like this, might as well have a weenie roast.

So it’s finally here, May, the month that Carol dreams of all year. Some gardens are already cooking on all burners, some just waking up, but it’s all chronicled on
May Dreams Gardens, where Carol hosts our Bloom Day reports the 15th of every month, or thereabouts.

the High Line in June

For about five days in mid-June a small group of us toured gardens on Long Island, NY, with the last day, Sunday, dedicated to visiting the High Line and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which seemed a perfect ending to the trip. I’d never visited the BBG before, and the High Line had opened a new extension since my two previous visits. But facing daunting logistics, including having to leave Brooklyn late on Sunday and find my way to a new hotel near JFK for the one night before the 6 a.m. flight on Monday morning, and squeezing in returning the rental car at some point, all these details broke me and I opted not to go. Instead I drove from Long Island to the hotel near JFK, checked in, drove to JFK to return the rental car, took the Air Train and then a hotel shuttle back to the hotel, where around 4 p.m. I called Marty (my husband) to let him know I had triumphantly mastered all these details, including navigating through some horrific New York traffic. Marty said well done, stay where you are, find something to eat, and don’t miss the 6 a.m flight Monday morning.

I then called MB Maher (my son) to deliver the same triumphant account, and he said, Are you crazy? You’re in New York and skipping the High Line?

I protested that it was 4:30 p.m., I was exhausted and hungry, having eaten nothing but raisins and peanuts all day, that the High Line’s website said the park closes at 7 (which I misread. It closes at 11 p.m during summer), and there was no way I could make the push to see the High Line this late in the day. Mitch wasn’t at all impressed with my recitation of timetables and repeated the Are you crazy? bit again, and I had to admit, yes, I would be crazy not to go.

So I found the hotel concierge, and within eight minutes of asking him how this cab thing worked, I was sitting in one and heading into Manhattan. Very slowly, in horrific traffic. In Los Angeles a cab ride experience comes along about as frequently as Haley’s Comet, and I had absolutely no frame of reference for suitable behavior, his or mine. My cab driver had never heard of the High Line, so I handed him my iPhone with a map. On the way, moving incrementally in mostly stalled traffic, I had grave doubts that the cab driver and I had successfully negotiated my destination and was certain only of the utter folly of the entire misadventure. But the traffic did ultimately thin out and before sunset we were in Chelsea, driving under those unmistakable railway trestles. I was chagrined to have doubted the driver, even though only in silence, tipped him heavily ($70 total), and arrived at the High Line by 6 p.m. And, yes, I would have been crazy not to go.

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Doubly crazy because the eremurus were still in bloom

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As were masses of Knautia macedonia

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Pink astilbe shockingly paired with orange milkweed

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With the sedums just coming into bloom

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Eryngium

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Baptisia alba and liatris just coloring up

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So exciting to see Dalea purpurea in bloom. I just tucked a small dalea into my own garden.

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Echinacea species, maybe E. pallida

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Stachys ‘Hummelo’

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I have read that some locals consider the High Line too successful, and accuse the park’s gravity pull of distorting the surrounding neighborhood.

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The resulting construction boom I’ve been reading about since the park opened is everywhere in progress, and the park does become clotted with people at its narrowest walkways. But I haven’t been among this many excited people since the last hockey game I attended. There is an unmistakable sense among the strollers that they’ve arrived at a very special place and are participating in and affirming something truly wonderful. Camera phones clicked and visitors marveled at common plants like echinacea and other robust prairie plants and grasses that held their own against Manhattan’s skyline, something the typical park fare of bedding plants could never do. The dynamism of the seasonal plantings continually offers up new associations and perspectives and endless plant/city “combinations,” to use garden writing vernacular.

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Eremurus, dalea, and liatris

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Are the gigantic leaves inula?

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I’m not sure what allium has been planted, but it’s lovely even with the color drained away

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It was a hot, sticky New York evening, but the subway was icy cool on the way back to the hotel, and I was tucked in my room with a cold can of Fosters for dinner by 10 p.m. I did make the early flight (just barely) and settled in a middle seat between two largish men. Catching up on movies seemed a sensible option, and a choice offered was Steven Soderbergh’s lastest film Side Effects — small scenes of which were filmed at, yes, the High Line. This park has definitely arrived.

Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.


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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


High Line in late November 2012

Must I really squeeze in one more post on the High Line in 2012? Have we become bored and cynical already about this dream of a garden on an abandoned railway trestle made real against seemingly insurmountable odds? (Yes to the former and a resounding no! to the latter. Not on my blog anyway.) I don’t know if the hipster doll left on the High Line a few weeks ago was meant to allude to recent controversies revolving around accusations that the runaway success of the High Line park was responsible for “Disneyfying” the surrounding neighborhood.


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At least I think it’s a toy. The photographer didn’t say. Left purposely or simply forgotten, I just hope there was no anti-hipster voodoo involved.
MB Maher was in NYC last week and grabbed a quick portrait of the High Line in early winter, including this well-dressed hobo debating whether to ride the rails. (Possible caption: Is relentless pursuit of the hip a train to nowhere?)

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More signs of affection for the High Line.

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The High Line without Oudolf’s emotional planting would still be worth visiting for the great views, similar to strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge.

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Giving us access to views previously granted only to birds.

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Nourishment for us, nourishment for the birds.

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Laying down new tracks in urban garden design: Is it a garden threaded through a city, or is the city now threaded through a garden?

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Because urban parks aim for creating utilitarian space, they are oftentimes monocultures, stripped of species diversity. A garden aims for the transformative, urging us to escape into another world. I think the High Line successfully merges urban park and garden, simultaneously intensifying the appreciation of both the built and natural world by immersion in both.

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Tidy, formal parks, with their authoritarian focal points, can seem like bon-bons attempting to satisfy ravenous, denatured urban appetites. I find that the shifting perspectives, stark contrasts, and wildly rich plantings make the High Line a four-season feast.

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Last post on the High Line for 2012, I swear.


Edited to correct photo attribution; photos 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 taken by J. Mericle/threadandbones.

wall street occupies central park

From Wikipedia: “Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another.”

New York City’s Central Park has found a patron to rival the Medicis. Hedge fund manager John. A. Paulson has gifted Central Park $100 million.

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photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

It’s about time that parks saw some major philanthropic action too.

Asked what prompted the gift, he said: ‘Walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that, in my mind, Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York’s cultural institutions. And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large, and its endowment is relatively small.’” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

From the Central Park Conservancy website: “Eighty-five percent of Central Park’s $46 million annual expense budget comes from private donations. Central Park has received an unprecedented gift of $100 million from John A. Paulson and the Paulson Family Foundation to help sustain the progress we’ve made since 1980 and ensure that generations to come will be able to make their own memories here.”

New York City parks are really feeling the love lately. What a roll they’ve been on the past couple years:

The gift is the latest in a year in which city parks emerged as major beneficiaries of philanthropy, joining more traditional recipients like museums, hospitals and universities. A year ago, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation pledged $20 million to the High Line, the elevated park on the West Side of Manhattan; that donation followed two other gifts to the High Line from the foundation, totaling $15 million. In April, Joshua P. Rechnitz, an amateur track cyclist, announced a gift of $40 million to Brooklyn Bridge Park to build a field house with a cycling track.” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

High Line jeremiad

Some interesting Sunday reading to be found in another nuanced, contrarian view of the High Line Park in New York City. I know, not another post on the High Line! I can’t help it, I’m utterly fascinated by this subject. So many twists and turns down those old railway tracks. Jeremiah Moss, who blogs at Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, had his Op-Ed on the High Line, “Disney World on the Hudson,” published in the New York Times on August 21, 2012.


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Some sample paragraphs:

Not yet four years old, the High Line has already become another stop on the must-see list for out-of-towners, another chapter in the story of New York City’s transformation into Disney World. According to the park’s Web site, 3.7 million people visited the High Line in 2011, only half of them New Yorkers. It’s this overcrowding, not just of the High Line, but of the streets around it, that’s beginning to turn the tide of sentiment.”

Originally meant for running freight trains, the High Line now runs people, except where those people jam together like spawning salmon crammed in a bottleneck. The park is narrow, and there are few escape routes. I’ve gotten close to a panic attack, stuck in a pool of stagnant tourists at the park’s most congested points.”

images found here
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The High Line was certainly on this out-of-towner’s must-see list when visiting New York. In fact, it was the prospect of walking the High Line Park that finally induced me to stay a few days in this astonishing city and have my first look around, a trip I had put off year after year. Just the first section was open when I visited in the autumn of 2010, and there were no stagnant pools of tourists to be avoided at that time. It was fairly empty. Who could have imagined that the High Line Park would be so successful that it would stir up some New York nativist blowback? Rezoning the surrounding Chelsea neighborhood to allow for an influx of expensive, fish-bowl high-rises adjacent to the High Line seems to be the cause of much of the animus. (“Close Quarters,” New York Times 8/1/12)

Gain a park, lose a neighborhood?


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Unintended or otherwise, one of the consequences of the repurposing of the abandoned elevated railway trestle into the High Line Park has been to spur a juggernaut of gentrification, a fate the city of Los Angeles has long been praying will be visited upon its downtown. We’re finally getting a park, too, the 12-acre, much-delayed Grand Park, scaled back from pre-recession ambitions.


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Los Angeles is woefully in need of public parks, found to rank 17th among major U.S. cities in public space devoted to parks. Yes, we have our public beaches, but there’s currently no Metro Rail service that runs to the beaches.

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Image from LA Times
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A tale of two cities, a tale of two parks: As a park, the High Line brilliantly captures the innovative optimism and skyward character of New York, taking up no new space at the ground level, whereas Grand Park is an awkward fit around parking garages, interrupted Los Angeles-style by streets breaking it into sections, just as our freeways isolate neighborhoods. But for now it’s all we’ve got. From Christopher Hawthorne’s review in the LA Times 7/24/12:

Mostly what we’ve had is a collection of thousands upon thousands of privately owned and miniature Central Parks, one for every suburban backyard. Grand Park represents something else: an attempt, imperfect but encouraging, to chip away at the rigid infrastructure of the car-dominated city and make a private city a little more public.”

Like the newly gentrified Chelsea neighborhood surrounding the High Line, Los Angeles developers originally had big plans for the area surrounding the Grand Park:

Under the original plan, which backers said would help create a “Champs Elysees” for Los Angeles, a dramatic Frank Gehry-designed complex of high-rise towers, shops, upscale condos and a five-star hotel should have been completed by now.”

Unlike the grass-roots efforts that got the High Line Park rolling, big-money developers have always been in charge of Grand Park, and developers will always aim for the Beverly Hills jackpot.

During the height of the real estate boom, developers unveiled numerous luxury projects, believing the downtown revitalization was so strong that it could support Beverly Hills-level retailers and residences.”

Then there was that pesky 2008 recession. At least New York got the High Line out of their devil’s bargain. We did get some nice hot-pink chairs though.


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And who knows? In the big picture, maybe we’re actually lucky that the recession knocked the glitz out of our park and left us with a modest, workday space instead of a tourist magnet like the High Line. I do have to warn Mr. Moss, though, that I plan to once again join the throngs of tourists clogging the High Line Park to see the completion of its subsequent phases. The High Line’s success is just another example of the price that great cities — London, Paris, Venice, New York — pay for their daring, walkable beauty.

sit

Dear Chair, oh, how I love thee! I scored a couple garden chairs on sale recently, which pitched my low simmer of constant chair love back into a full boil. These are mostly photos of chairs and benches previously posted from garden shows, garden tours. Where the designer and/or setting is unknown, no attribution is given, making this a chair tear sheet. At the end of August, with temperatures hopefully cooling, some of the best chair weather is still ahead.

Fermob at Dunn Gardens, Seattle, Washington
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Recliners on the High Line, New York City
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Venice Home and Garden Tour 2012
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Bend Seating
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Maarten Baas plastic chair in wood
Maarten Baas plastic chair in wood

Emeco Broom chair by Philip Starck
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Venice Home and Garden Tour
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From Damian Velasquez’s Half13 collection, Dwell on Design, Los Angeles 2012
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Bend Seating
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Chairs at Villa Mundo Nuevo, by Jarrod Baumann of Zeterre Landscape Architecture
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Chaise at Villa Mundo Nuevo, by Jarrod Baumann of Zeterre Landscape Architecture

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Long Beach Antique Market
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Loll Designs, 100% recycled plastic
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Fermob, South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show 2012, garden designer Dustin Gimbel
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South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show 2012
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San Francisco Flower and Garden Show 2012
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Battery Park, New York City
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Battery Park, New York City
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Garden of Katherine Spitz and Daniel Rhodes, Mar Vista, California
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Sue Dadd and James Griffith’s “Folly Bowl,” Altadena, California
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Venice Home and Garden Tour 2012
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private garden
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private garden
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private garden
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private garden
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private garden
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San Francisco Flower and Garden Show
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private garden
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private garden
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San Francisco Flower and Garden Show 2012
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Venice Home and Garden Tour 2012
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Rancho Los Alamitos, California
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The Low Line (really)

Credit goes to New York for currently being the city with the most moxie, ingenuity, and brass-balled chutzpah in creating new public parks. (See Frank Bruni’s 7/14/12 piece in the NYT’s Sunday Review “Our Newly Lush Life.”) New York’s recent success with parks illustrates two important points: Where space is at a premium, look again at existing, abandoned infrastructure. When money is tight, get creative with public/private relationships. New York is aiming to build on the enormous success of the High Line, the abandoned elevated railway transformed into one of the most exciting public/private garden collaborations of recent years, but this time going underground.

Yes, underground, where the sun don’t shine.


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With a moon-shot, can-do, New York swagger, co-creators of the Delancey Underground project, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, envision light reaching the abandoned Delancey Street Trolley Station through “a large system of mirrors and fiber optics to transport sunlight from the streets above into the cavernous facility, filling the space with enough natural lighting to even allow plants to grow.” (“The Low Line – New York’s First Underground Park“)

Architectural Digest’s 5/11/12 Daily Ad reported on a soiree held to benefit the High Line and ended with this intriguing snippet:

As for New York’s next great park, Boykin Curry, a partner at Eagle Capital Management, and his wife, interior designer Celerie Kemble, mentioned a project they’re currently championing: the Low Line. ‘Some friends and I have been collaborating on this,’ explained Curry of the proposed two-acre subterranean park that would occupy a former trolley terminal on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. ‘A friend of ours is an engineer who invented the technology to bring sunlight below ground, so you can grow trees and grass there,’ he continued. ‘We’re working on it with the MTA and the city.’ Fingers crossed.”

No, I’m not making this up. You can read more about the Low Line here and here. Initial fund-raising goal was met on Kickstarter this past April.

Foreword to Piet Oudolf Landscapes in Landscapes

I didn’t dare take this beautiful book on the recent camping trip, so it sat waiting in a quiet house. A couple pages behind the cover’s brisk Helvetica type is this arresting foreword by Robert Hammond, co-founder of the High Line in New York City, which is as far as I got into the book. I think the entire foreword is worth posting here:

The High Line should be preserved, untouched, as a wilderness area. No doubt you will ruin it. So it goes.’

“This comment was handed in on a public input card after our 2003 High Line Ideas Competition and I’ve kept it pinned above my desk ever since. It scared me because I believed it could come true.

“The High Line was a serendipitous wildscape when Joshua David and I first walked on it in the summer 1999. Grasses, wildflowers, and small trees had taken over the surface of the abandoned elevated rail line. It was unplanned and untended, and that’s what made it so special. My biggest fear was that turning it into a park would spur the loss of a magical, accidental landscape thriving in relative secret above the West Side of Manhattan. At first we hoped to keep it as it was, to preserve that wild state and to simply run a path down the middle of the railway. We soon learned that would be impossible. In order to open it to the public we needed to make repairs, and that meant removing what remained of the ties, the rails, and the ballast — and everything growing on top of them. I knew we could not replicate what had taken nature decades to unfold. Even after I saw the plans that Piet Oudolf developed with our design team, led by James Corner Field Operations, schemes that drew inspiration from the palette of volunteer plants found growing there, I was anxious that the new plantings would fall short of that romantic original landscape. It was not until after the park opened in the summer of 2010 and I could see how the High Line’s blooms, grasses, and foliage changed every few weeks that I realized that Piet had not only recaptured that original magic, but that he had also created a new landscape that had the ability to alter the way people feel and how they act.

“People do not walk slowly in New York. They rarely stroll. But they do on the High Line. Couples hold hands. Parents remark upon the various plants as they use the High Line to walk their children leisurely to and from school. Piet’s landscape allows people to breathe easier — not for its manicured beauty, but for its ability to change as nature does.

“The range and complexity of Piet’s plantings give visitors reasons to come back again and again. Week after week, month after month, they are lessons in discovery. Where many garden designers think of landscapes in terms of the four main seasons, Piet’s seasons are broken into seasons. His aspirations may be ecological in nature, but he works like a painter. He dials color up, and then back, sometimes massing bold swatches of color that lead your eye through the landscape, at other times subtly dotting little spectral islands into larger seas of grasses. The complexity of these combinations is heightened as he employs various and distinct aspects of a single plant’s annual cycle for various purposes through a single year. His plants are actors playing multiple roles — the blue stars that entertain with small, pale blue flowers in May return with a bold statement when their foliage turns a brilliant gold in the fall.

“With Oudolf, it’s not just about flowers. His landscapes, while certainly floral, are meant to confound the “what’s-in-bloom?” mentality that drives much of the garden world. Plants are prized for their flowers, yes, but also for their height — and the gradual pace pursued to achieve their eventual statures — for their foliage’s texture and color in spring and summer as well as fall and winter, for their fruit or seedheads, and even for the color of their stems. Whether the plants are ascendant or in decline, all of their features have roles to play, through the year. And it all appears so disarmingly simple.

“Or course, you do not need to think about any of this when you walk through one of his landscapes. But I suspect that you will be moved, or inspired, or maybe you will just feel better — even if you don’t know why. There is something at work that will, I think, connect you to the kind of feelings I experienced when I walked on the High Line that first time — a belief in the ability of such spaces to change the way we see the world, and perhaps each other, season after season, all year long.

Robert Hammond
Co-founder
Friends of the High Line.”

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