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Second Section of the High Line Opens

By Amy Zimmer | June 7, 2011 2:50pm | Updated on June 8, 2011 6:33am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

CHELSEA — The second stretch of the High Line is now open for strolling, sunning and catching a glimpse into the apartments that abut this section from West 20th to 30th streets.

The park on the 1929 elevated rail line, now 1-mile long, has doubled in size with the $66.8 million second phase.

"With the opening of the second section of the High Line, pedestrians will be able to travel for 19 blocks, from neighborhood to neighborhood, without coming in contact with a single vehicle," City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said at Tuesday's ribbon cutting for the "magical, linear garden-in-the-sky."

City officials remain hopeful that the third stretch, along the West Side Rail Yards from West 30th to 34ths streets — still owned by CSX Transportation — will follow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $5 million challenge grant from the jewelry icon, Tiffany & Co., to jumpstart the preservation of the final segment, which already attracted another $5 million donation. It's part of a five-year $50 million capital campaign to convert the last section into a public space.

"We're optimistic," Friends of the High Line co-founder Robert Hammond said of saving the final stretch.

Starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, he and co-founder Joshua David took down the gate separating the new section from the part of elevated railway from Gansevoort to West 20th street that opened in 2009 and has since attracted 4 million visitors.

Half of the visitors were New Yorkers and half were tourists, Bloomberg noted.

Just as in the first section, the greenery in the new part is meant to echo the wild shrubbery had taken root after the last train ran in 1980 and helped inspire Hammond, David and others to fall for the space and fight to turn it into a park.

At West 20th Street there's what's called the "Chelsea thicket," surrounded by winterberries, redbuds and large American hollies, and between West 26th and West 29th streets there's a "wildflower field" with flowers peeking through the original railroad tracks.

At West 23rd Street, a seating area of steps made from reclaimed teak is at the base a 4,900-square-foot lawn that peels upward to give park-goers a view of the Hudson River — and will surely become a sunbathing spot.

"The High Line is urban, but this part is almost knitted into the neighborhood, almost check-by-jowl with the buildings," Hammond said of the second segment.

"It runs very straight," Ricardo Scofidio of the park's architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro said. "It's more of a canyon with the adjoining buildings to the point of rubbing up close to the architecture."

Bloomberg said that since construction of the $153 million High Line began — $112.2 million of which came from the city — the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhoods it cuts through have seen more than $2 billion in private investment.

Dilapidated buildings and auto-body shops have been replaced by buildings designed by such starchitects as Frank Gehry, Annabelle Selldorf, Jean Nouvel and soon Renzo Piano, who is designing the new Whitney Museum at the High Line's southern base.

The city has seen 4 million square feet of space added to the area — the equivalent of four Chrysler buildings, Bloomberg said.

To celebrate the opening of the new section of the High Line, the Friends of the High Line commissioned four new public art installations and have organized 100 public events for the summer.

The "Lot at 30th Street," a temporary public plaza under the park's northern end, will have a rotating cast of food trucks, an outdoor bar run by Colicchio & Sons and a large-scale interactive inflatable art installation. From June 13 through 18, youth step teams from the city's public schools will turn the High Line into a giant performance space.