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High Line Frequently Forced to Close Due to Winter Storms

By Mathew Katz | February 5, 2014 6:54am
  The park shut down 10 times over the past 52 days, citing snow and ice.
High Line Shuttered
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CHELSEA — The winter weather is freezing out would-be visitors to the High Line, which has repeatedly been forced to close this season because of storms.

The elevated park has closed for snow and ice removal 10 out of the past 52 days, according to announcements on the Friends of the High Line Twitter feed and website, leaving tourists and New Yorkers with nothing to see but large gray gates barring the entrances. 

The closures began on Dec. 15, when snow caused the park to be closed for nearly half the day. This winter, the park has frequently shut down early, opened late or been closed entirely thanks to bad weather.

Some fans of the park said they wanted to brave the terrain despite the snow and ice.

"I think it's horrible — it absolutely should be open," said Laurie Ogle, who lives nearby and found the park closed when she hoped to take a walk there on Tuesday. "It's stupid. It's never more beautiful than it is now."

The park has frequently been closed not just on the day of a major storm, like the one that dumped as much as 9 inches of snow on the city on Jan. 3, but also for a day or two afterward, as workers strained to manually remove snow and ice using shovels, snow blowers and snow brooms.

Unlike other major parks in the city — including Central Park and nearby Hudson River Park, which have remained open all winter — the High Line is particularly sensitive to snow and ice and often needs extra time to clean up after a storm, according to the city's Parks Department.

"The High Line is unique from any other NYC park in the sense that it is an elevated, bridge-like structure that has controlled access points. Such elevated structures freeze before ground-level roadways do," said spokesman Phil Abramson. "At 30 feet above the street, the High Line quickly freezes when temperatures fall, making it challenging to prevent and then remove ice as it forms on the park’s pathway."

Also, park workers avoid using rock salt and chemical ice melters because of the density of plants, opting for eco-friendly options. Staff members manually remove snow and ice while the park is closed to the public, officials said.

"Given the narrow width of the High Line walkways, it is necessary to close the park during ice and snow removal to ensure the safety of park visitors," Friends of the High Line spokeswoman Megan Freed wrote in an email. "Our staff arrives early and stays late to remove snow and ice. In addition to the excellent High Line Operations staff, we rely on volunteers to help with the tremendous task of snow removal."

That was little consolation to Neil Haddon, 46, who was hoping to show the High Line to his son, Joseph, while he visited from Australia. 

"I've been before and I was really impressed, so I wanted to show him the park — we were really looking forward to it," Haddon said Tuesday.

Parks are typically kept open only when it's safe for the public, Parks Department officials said, largely depending on weather conditions. With stairs at every entrance and the possibility of slips and falls, the High Line needs to close more often than your typical park.

"[Friends of the High Line is] putting in the time to make sure it’s safe," said James Yolles, a spokesman for the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks. "Given the very unique nature of the space, they have to take different precautions than the Parks Department would take in a traditional park."

Fashion designer Marie Tika made the trek from her DUMBO studio to the High Line for the first time in the hopes of taking pictures and brainstorming about her designs. She said she was "disheartened" to find the park closed.

"I thought it would be a great site to take pictures, especially on a day like today," she said. "I guess inspiration will have to wait."