The High Line’s Ruined: Now Who Committed This Crime?


Did we ruin the High Line? The answer’s different for tourists, real estate developers and anyone who actually once loved this mess. But ruined it is.

By David Stone

for The Roosevelt Island Daily News

My love for the High Line started early in my New York years.

It’s 1990, and I’m working in Manhattan but still living in New Jersey.

Driving down 9th Avenue on my way to the Holland Tunnel, I see this elevated railroad crossing every street all the way to 14th. What’s really striking, it branches off into upper floors in buildings along the way.

See also: Images of New York City, Urban Landscapes

Built to ease dangers along 10th “Death” Avenue, the elevated West Side Line served for only 20 years, beginning in 1933.

And there it sat, a large historic treasure collecting weeds, trash and rust, 40 years after it was abandoned.

In the early 2000s, I got a closer look when sales calls sent me deep into Chelsea, where Martha Stewart relocated. I thought it was an economy move like the many art galleries nearby.

Even at distance, the misfit of weedy, intrusive architecture is evident.

But maybe it hinted at the area’s feature as a real estate cash cow.

High Line Park Takes Shape

Fending off Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to tear it down and turn the land over to developers, a devoted group of admirers with a vision saved the High Line.

That vision became real in 2009.

Taking advantage of the High Line’s location, above the street, through blocks left much as they were in the mid-20th Century, planners landscaped a trail.

That trail led through history but kept a refreshing distance above the nearby urban congestion and noise.

Hard to believe, this is the High Line in 2009, ten years before its ruin.
Wild flowers then caught plenty of sun.

But danger already lurked as ugly, inappropriate buildings began blocking views — and sun.

Architecture only a mother — or profiteering real estate developer — could love intrudes in 2019.

A rare, genuine urban trail without traffic hazards, the early High Line Park was a leisurely stroll through the far West Side. 20th and even 19th Century buildings remained.

Gradually, they ruined the High Line…

Views into Midtown made that district stand out as it must have, a goal for folks mired in Hell’s Kitchen.

But there was distinctly New York fun too.

New, inspired architecture had its place, without jamming into the park, without a “Look ma, no hands!” showoff appeal.

SPONSORED: Travels with George: New York, A Cat’s Eye View by David Stone and Deborah Julian

Along the High Line, Chelsea played urban theatre.

Even though we returned for walks along the High Line over the years, the abrupt outburst of ugly buildings still surprised us.

Gradually, they ruined the High Line, changing it from a detached urban trail into an artificial canyon flanked by up close, intrusive structures detracting from the landscape.

Ugly buildings.

It’s like they’re inventing ugly on the fly, just for the High Line.

A traumatic social decline followed.

Walking the High Line now, often clogged with tourists, you’re likely to be passed by millennials in a hurry. Their conversations are gossipy, but do they even know where they are?

And who cares what your “I’m like…” pseudo personality did during the latest workplace drama? Why force it on the rest of us?

And why do businessmen pick the High Line for deconstructing the latest deal?

A ruined High Line is not New York…

The most disconcerting fact about the old railroad today is its un-New York character. Well, not quite. It is the New York of real estate developers.


The High Line’s gone, and it ain’t coming back. Greed scars a once promising venue where we saw and felt the city differently. Now, it’s a canyon, a pedestrian shortcut between the Whitney and Hudson Yards.

No need to wait for stop signs. The real estate developers didn’t.

More from Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

  • Why RIOC’s New Constituent Services Department Is Total Bull-oney
    Next up in RIOC’s Hall of Cringe-Worthy Moments, another screaming headline: “PRESIDENT HAYNES ANNOUNCES NEW CONSTITUENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT WITHIN RIOC.” It scores a triple crown of hypocritical, condescending and stupid. How can this highly paid confederacy of dunces make gross error after error and never pay a price? Maybe because all the strings are being
  • Will Roosevelt Island Day Be Diminished Again This Year?
    Roosevelt Island Day shrunk after 2019, partly because of excessive COVID-19 concerns, but what happens in 2023? President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes’s organizers can regain some lost community support, returning some enthusiasm for 2023. But the signs so far are not good. A late announcement and a lackadaisical poster lacking all originality won’t stoke enthusiasm. by
  • From Jazz to Hip-Hop: How Harlem Transformed into a Groovy Hub of Music in New York City
    The culturally rich neighborhood of Harlem in New York City has been an epicenter for music since the early 20th century. From the birth of jazz to hip-hop, Harlem has served as a breeding ground for some of the most influential musical genres in American history. by David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News The
  • Broadway Unmasked: Behind the Theatre District’s Meteoric Rise
    Broadway is an iconic part of American culture, a place where dreams come true and stories are brought to life. From its humble beginnings as a small collection of theaters in the late 19th century, Broadway has grown into one of the most renowned theater districts in the world. But what led to its meteoric
  • Lunatic Fringe – Is Shelton Haynes Job-Hunting on Your Dime?
    Reporting that “He’s at it again” isn’t enough as what looks for all the world like RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes job-hunting secures a spot cleanly on the lunatic fringe. In a new paid public promo, the composer positions Haynes as Roosevelt Island’s hero-come-lately. It gets really nutty before it ends. by David Stone The


Leave a Reply

Previous Story

Seize This Season: What’s Up, FDR Four Freedoms Park?

Next Story

1619 Project Truth Telling Draws A Crowd At Gallery RIVAA

Latest from New York City

0 $0.00
%d bloggers like this: