The High Line: Decay and Rebirth of a Public Space in Manhattan

Authors: Matthew Zuccaro*, Montclair State University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainability Science
Keywords: sustainable design, urban planning, preservation, parks, transportation, new york city
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Marshall East, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On a balmy summer day, thousands of residents and tourists leisurely stroll along an elevated pathway, isolated from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan which is occurring 50 feet below them. All of this is happening in Manhattan’s newest park, The High Line, which transformed an abandoned railroad line into a vibrant and sustainable public space. The success of the High Line has inspired a number of similar projects in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. To make these parks a reality, planners are increasingly employing the railbanking provision in a 1983 amendment to the National Trails System Act to acquire property for public space. Railbanking is the process whereby railroads voluntarily transfer their right-of-way to a trail agency or government unit instead of enduring the laborious abandonment procedure. Although the transformation of an abandoned urban rail line into a useful public space may appear to be a victory, such plans often receive considerable opposition from a variety of stakeholders including real estate developers, neighbors, and city officials. Through a case study analysis of the High Line in New York City and the proposed Sixth Street Embankment Park in Jersey City, this paper will examine the application of Railbanking to create public spaces within the urban context. Additionally, this paper will explore stakeholder opposition to railbanking (i.e. gentrification, traffic, real estate development, etc.) and how trail agencies have worked address those concerns.

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