Sour Grapes Griping About the High Line Already Starting


all photos: Matthew McDermott

In case you missed it, Manhattan's newest park, The High Line just opened up its first section this week. After a quick excursion to photograph it for a TreeHugger slideshow, I have to say it's for the most part pretty friggin great. While walking along it though I wondered how long it would be before some spoilsport came along and said 'It isn't that cool." It didn't take too long. I got home to find a link to 9 reasons why the high line sucks in my inbox: This is part of what oobject had to say in their intro,

...it sits above ground, shovels people off the streets via stairs which cyclists can’t use and leads from nowhere to nowhere. In addition, little money has been spend on the dark spaces underneath, which could easily negate any benefit provided above. 

The designers involved are great and there are nice touches, but could it have been better just to have torn it down and created something at street level. Such talk is heresy, but here are 9 reasons why we are disbelievers.

The whole thing frankly seems like sour grapes. Here are the worst of their criticisms and why they don't really hold up:

1. Where are the night lights like at dusiberg?
Duisberg, Germany converted an old steel factory into a park, complete with some dramatic night-lighting. And thank goodness the designers of the High Line had the good taste and good sense not to do something this absurd. New York City already has enough light pollution and we don't need anymore. The lighting that has been incorporated into the design is far more subdued and appropriate.

3. The High Line is a bridge to nowhere
The bridge to nowhere existed long before it was turned into a park, so while it is true that linear parks are a great way to link green areas together as the original piece states, working with what you already have and converting it to a green use is an equally great thing to do.

4. Much of the High Line is not landscaped
I wonder if I walked on a different high line, because other than two short sections where the park runs under some buildings the entire thing is well landscaped. Really, this is just factually incorrect and will only become more so as the plantings fill in. I wonder if they would've said the same thing about Central Park when it was first created and undoubtedly less wooded than it is today?


5. It takes decades for a park to mature and by that time what is below may be bad
This just rings hollow for me. It could be said of any development in any location that is on the fringes. It's not a reason to hate on the High Line, nor is it necessarily true. In fact, a park in this area of the West Side may very well ensure that the transformation of the area into something more pleasant is solidified, if it wasn't already.

7. Bikes like linear parks but not stairs

Complete separation of traffic from urban areas sometimes makes places dead and being long and thin, linear parks really work when they can be used as a route from A to B. Mixing cycle traffic with linear parks is a good idea for everyone, but the Highline doesn't work as a place to cut through with stairs rather than ramps.

Again, I wonder if the authors have actually been to the High Line. One could argue that the whole thing should have just been made into some sort of above ground bike lane, but it's not and won't be. It's not designed as a transit corridor and in fact bikes (as well as skateboards and rollerblades) are not permitted. Based on the foot traffic when I was there that's probably a good thing. It'd be like riding down the middle of busy sidewalk, dangerous for all involved and contrary to the contemplative pace at which the space should be observed. And even if bikes were allowed there are elevators already in place, and more planned, for access.


9. People like to walk at street level
Citing a pedestrianized area of the Barbican in London, the last criticism is frankly pointless, being disconnected from the reality of this specific location. The fact of the matter is that, unlike in the case of the Barbican where there is a street level underpass—"a sad and lonely place...hostile to pedestrians"—no such situation exists with the High Line.

The passageways that cut underneath the park are the width of the train tracks and run perpendicular to the flow of the park. Other times the park runs parallel with the street and sidewalk below, and plenty of foot traffic remains, but none of it is shunted off directly under the park. In most places the High Line paces down the middle of the block and no pedestrian traffic would ever run along the route.

Check out the original post for the rest of the equally abstractly invalid reasons why the High Line sucks, if you like. But perhaps the better thing to do, if you're anywhere near New York City, is to head on over and check it out yourself. I personally assure you that the High Line does not suck.

The High Line
Take the High Line! Check Out Manhattan's Newest Park (Slideshow)
High Line Stories: How to Transform a Derelict Railway into a Seriously Cool Park (Video)
The High Line: New York's Agritectural Space

Tags: Cities | New York City | Urban Life | Urban Planning | Walking