Green Space, Elevated

The High Line Park, located on Manhattan’s West Side, opened yesterday with much publicity (from the Post and the Times, among others).

This morning’s thunderstorms made the photos from my own visit almost useless (and absolutely depressing) so I’ll let the above coverage and this video from a Sundance Channel series do the bulk of the walking and talking:

The park’s official website has lots of other great materials as well.  I especially like this nice little interactive graphic.

While the public coverage of the project seems to have been nothing but positive, in the past few weeks I’ve spoken with a surprising number of New Yorkers who are less than impressed with the park.  Their beef has not been with the new space itself, but rather with the way its celebration has gone hand-in-hand with a general silence on the pressing need for green space in less afluent and star-studded neighborhoods.  These critics seem to be saying, “sure, the High Line is great but how about reclaiming abandoned and dilapidated spaces in areas that really need it, like the South Bronx or Central Brooklyn?”

While I love the concept, execution and experience of the High Line (even in the rain), I have to admit that these folks make an important and valid point.  We’ve got to recognize and deal with the fact that some people have much more access than others to the power required to transform urban space for the better.  As a result, some communities end up with cleaner air, nicer streets and healthier living spaces.  Assuming that we can all agree that everyone deserves these things, I want to suggest that efforts in more marginal areas can use the High Line as a model.  For example, it might serve as a useful model for how to drum up the necessary support (community, as well as celebrity and financial) to carry a reclaimation through.  It certainly shows how to market an idea effectively (see all the materials referenced above).

Sure, communities in the South Bronx face serious financial and social problems.  But they also have a number of advantages and unique potentials that a place like the Meatpacking District lacks (Sustainable South Bronx is one organization that is currently working along these lines).  And so, as we visit and enjoy projects like the High Line this summer, let’s also be thinking about and discussing how to grow and expand unique green spaces across NYC and beyond.


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