June 3, 2009

A celebration for the new High Line

On Monday, June 1st, I attended a dinner held on the High Line in New York City. This dinner was hosted by media mogul, Barry Diller and his wife, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. It was in honor of the many supporters of the High Line. The High Line is an elevated rail viaduct that runs for 1.45 miles, from West 34th Street down nearly 30 blocks, along the edge of the Hudson River. Prior to its construction in the 1930’s, 10th Avenue was referred to as “Death Avenue.” It was a neighborhood of very busy freight warehouses and shipping terminals. And with freight trains running at the same level as cars, pedestrians, and horse-drawn carts, many serious accidents occurred. Things became a whole lot safer when the High Line was built. It was a solution that raised the rails, allowing other traffic to move beneath the trains.

Of course, at that time, no one knew that eventually air travel and trucking would bring a decline in ocean and rail traffic. Or, that this major infrastructure for ships and trains in Manhattan would one day be abandoned. For many years there was disagreement about what should become of the High Line. There were those who wanted it demolished. Fortunately, a non-profit group called Friends of the Highline was formed, and they worked steadfastly to preserve the structure. Their dream to turn it into a grand, public promenade for residents and visitors to enjoy has come to fruition and later this month, the first section will open to the public.

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