Completion of High Line's Third Section Could be Fast Tracked

By Mathew Katz on December 7, 2011 6:54am 

CHELSEA —The High Line's operators are hoping Hudson Yards developers will help fund completion of the last section of the popular Chelsea park.

Friends of the High Line co-founder Robert Hammond told an audience of more than 100 people at a public information meeting Tuesday that building the park's third section has become a priority after news that construction of the first building of the  Hudson Yards development — which will surround the High Line — will begin next year.

“Now that [Hudson Yards developer] Related [Companies] is moving quicker, we’re hoping they're going to fund some of the final build out,” he said.

The proposed third section is about 31 percent of the overall 1.45 mile long elevated rail structure, and will travel west along West 30th Street from 10th Avenue, before looping north along the West Side Highway. It will border the Hudson Yards development on two sides.

The park currently runs from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street, where it abruptly stops at a chain-link fence through which visitors can see the remaining section of abandoned tracks.

While involved parties agreed in principal in November to maintain the third section of the High Line, there’s no signed agreement holding them to that.

The Friends’ proposal, which Hammond stressed is a tentative idea, would involve building a completed park on the section roughly east of 11th Avenue — right next to where Related will construct the first Hudson Yards development, a building anchored by luxury leather-maker Coach.

The section west of 11th Avenue and looping northward would be more basic. Designers would merely put down some planks so that visitors could explore the area, and keep interest going until funds can be raised to fully build the whole project.

When the Hudson Yards development is completed, the new section of the High Line will have significantly different surroundings than the old ones: it will be surrounded  by skyscrapers that are more like Midtown than the Meatpacking District and Chelsea.

Hammond estimated the overall project would cost roughly $70 to $90 million, which he admitted the Friends don’t currently have.

"I like it because it's a way you can extend the permanent High Line farther, and you can get people to experience the wild space that’s there, and get it to 34th Street as soon as possible," Hammond said.

It also lines up more with the overall development of Hudson Yards — Related plans on building the eastern section of it before starting development on the western portion.

Community members in the audience were generally in favor of the plan, since it would allow people to enjoy the complete High Line structure as soon as possible.

"I want to encourage your suggestion of making it accessible as soon as possible," said Mike Yoder, who lives in Chelsea. "I think the value of being able to walk there and back is huge."

Others at the meeting encouraged Friends of the High Line to add more features to the park that currently exist in the first two sections, including a performance space and a place to grow fresh produce.

Grant Anderson, a Chelsea resident, wanted to see the design of the third section have some throwbacks to the park’s history as a rail yard.

"I would love to see a locomotive up there," he said.

Several other residents had a more pressing matter: adding more bathrooms to the often-crowded park, which Hammond said likely would not be added to the park until 2013.

"I don’t think we can wait until 2013 for bathrooms," said Betty Mackintosh, a member of Community Board 4. "On a Saturday, the line is unbelievable for the lady’s room."

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