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Abandoned Rail Line Gets New Life As NYC Park

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Abandoned Rail Line Gets New Life As NYC Park


Abandoned Rail Line Gets New Life As NYC Park

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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And let's go next to New York City, which has managed to find a unique space for a new park. It is called The High Line. And true to that name, it's not a patch of ground. It's a half-mile-long strip of green space suspended high above the city streets.

The High Line was created on top of an old elevated railway trestle that runs up the west side of Manhattan. And I am jealous this morning of NPR's Robert Smith, because he climbed up to take a look.

ROBERT SMITH: I'm up here 30 feet above the old meatpacking district, and it is a different world from the street below. On this narrow iron structure, there is now a park promenade that winds its way between wildflowers and the remnants of the old railroad tracks. Sam and Rachel Tanenbaum(ph) also came up here to explore.

Ms. RACHEL TANENBAUM: It's open. It's airy.

Mr. SAM TANENBAUM: An asphalt jungle that actually becomes the jungle and the vegetation.

Ms. TANENBAUM: And looking out at a meatpacking plant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: The elevated railroad was built in the 1930s to serve this industrial neighborhood. So, the park now follows the same path - over the streets, and even tunneling through the buildings.

Mr. ROBERT HAMMOND (Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line): Trains used to come barreling down right where we're standing.

SMITH: Robert Hammond says it's hard to believe, but this whole structure was slated for demolition just 10 years ago. Hammond lived in the neighborhood and cofounded Friends of the High Line to help save this rusting trestle. It's a long story.

Mr. HAMMOND: It took a lot of lawsuits.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAMMOND: You know, a lot of lawyers.

SMITH: But eventually, the city of New York got onboard and came up with most of the $150 million to build this park. The expensive part was removing the lead paint and making the iron structure safe. The park design itself was fairly simple: concrete, wildflowers and rusted metal.

Mr. HAMMOND: One of the biggest compliments I can even imagine is someone saying, wow, you didn't do a lot. You know, that the design - oh, you just left it the same.

SMITH: The city has let a few people up here as a sort of test run before the grand opening. And Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe is watching with glee.

Mr. ADRIAN BENEPE (Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks): They're walking with the same pace that people walk through a museum, because they're at a place they've never been before, which is floating above the ground, 30 feet in the sky.

SMITH: There is another sign of success, Benepe says. Even before the new High Line Park opened, 33 new projects began construction in his neighborhood -hotels, condos, offices.

Mr. BENEPE: We've thought for a long time that there's a great added value for having parks that goes well beyond what the investment is. This is the proof right here.

SMITH: Which is the encouragement the city needs to extend the High Line even farther. There's still a mile more of the railroad trestle that hasn't yet been converted to a park, but there are plans.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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