Friday, May 10, 2013

On a Grand Scale

Architecture is art on a grand scale, the canvas can be an entire cityscape. Growing up in New. Growing up in New Jersey it was easy to see some of the best views of Manhattan. The Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the twin towers of The World Trade Center all stood tall among their neighborhoods of giant skyscrapers.

If you look at the profile of Manhattan you'll see the concentration of all the tallest buildings in and around the financial district in lower Manhattan and in Mid-Town.  Surprisingly this is not a economic consideration but had to do with the bedrock under the buildings. As a general rule of thumb for every 10-12 stories a building is tall the foundation has to be at least extra story deep into the ground. An 80 story building will have a foundation of 6-8 stories deep. Very tall buildings need to be implanted into solid rock.

The rest of New York City can be a real mix of buildings and land that has been in continuous use for generations but repurposed every 10 or 20 years. The United Nations Building is a striking example of post World War 2 Modern International design that was built on top of the old stockyards that once brought in live animals to feed the city. Today you would never believe the area was a neighborhood of abattoirs, butchers and renderers.  

At one time Manhattan was an island of factories, the Hong Kong of the late 1800s. Immigrants were drawn to New York City because of all the industrial jobs.  The city started off with one of the best natural harbors in the world. By the 1830s raw materials could come in as far as the Mid-West by the Great Lakes, though the Erie Canal and then down the Hudson. After the Civil War railroads brought in more stuff to be converted into manufactured goods.  Large parts of Tribeca and Chelsea were devoted to industry often with huge concrete buildings that had a separate factory on each floor, today many of those surviving buildings have been repurposed into highly coveted loft apartments and artist spaces.

To supply those former factories there was an elevated freight railroad. It was a branch line that was a mile and a half long from Gansevoort St to West 34th Street. It was built in 1934 and was closed in 1980 only to be left to rot because no one saw a purpose for it and there was no money to tear it down. Space being at a premium in the city occasionally some hardy soul would climb up on to the tracks, though they were trespassing the word got out that this was really a neat place.

In 1999 two local residents, Joshua David and Robert Hammond started the non-profit  Friends Of The High Line. They envisioned the old elevated tracks turned into a strip of greenspace above the traffic and street congestion.  It would be similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris, a city park that was originally a decommissioned rail line.

New York City is fortunate to be a city filled with philanthropic celebrities, actually for a time Joshua David and Robert Hammond became  celebrities themselves  as they help raise the millions of dollars needed to develop the first phase of the park.  It might sound like a huge sum of money but other cities like Chicago, St Louis and Philadelphia are also looking into  converting their abandoned elevated freight lines into linear public parks. Not only does it improve the neighborhood but it's cheaper and less distributive than demolition.

This is the type of clever thinking that any city can really use. It makes the city more livable, promotes development,  creates an attraction that brings people in and it saves money over the cost of otherwise removing an eyesore.   

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 11:30am
2013 High Line Spring Benefit
Join us for the Friends of the High Line annual Spring Benefit!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Robert Hammond
John Blondel
CSX Transportation
Ethan Hawke
Hudson River Park’s Pier 57
Cocktails at 6:30 PM, dinner to follow.
Your support will ensure that the High Line remains an extraordinary experience in the coming year and that the park is poised for even greater success in the future, as we begin work on the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of this landmark public park. 
This year, Friends of the High Line is pleased to be honoring Co-Founder Robert Hammond, who will conclude a decade and a half of unwavering dedication to the High Line when he steps down as Executive Director of Friends of the High Line at the end of the year; High Line Board Member John Blondel, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, who has passionately championed the High Line for more than a decade and is now playing an integral role in the work to complete our vision for the High Line; CSX Transportation, which generously donated the entire historic High Line structure to the City of New York; and renowned actor, writer, and director Ethan Hawke, a long-time Chelsea resident who joined us in our earliest efforts to save and secure the High Line.
The vibrancy and energy of High Line supporters are what make this party so special. We hope you’ll join us and reserve your tickets or table now!
Tickets start at $1,500. For details and more information about tickets, tables, or to make a contribution, contact Alicia Salmon, or (212) 206-9922.

$1,500 is way out of my price range, though I'm told in New York that much money really isn't that much at all.  But I did want to repost their information. If you live in New York or you want to see something like this happen in your town then you could contact Friends Of The High Line and learn from their success.

To create the future you want, you have to seize today and support the things you feel are right.   


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