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PR- 257-09
June 8, 2009


New Public Park Spurs Economic Development, Creates Jobs, Enriches Vibrant West Chelsea Neighborhood

Mayor Announces Private Gifts of $20 Million from The Diller - von Furstenberg Family Foundation and Philip and Lisa Maria Falcone

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Friends of the High Line Co-Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond today opened the first section of the High Line, the highly-anticipated, new public park built on top of a 1930s-era elevated rail line. The High Line is the first public park of its kind in the United States, built 30 feet above Manhattan's West Side. The opening of the first half-mile section of the High Line is the culmination of more than three years of construction and ten years of planning. The Mayor and Speaker were joined by US Representative Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris; Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber; Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe; City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden; Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky; High Line capital campaign leaders Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, and Philip and Lisa Maria Falcone; and first-graders from Chelsea's P.S. 11, who helped cut the ribbon at the High Line's southernmost access point at Gansevoort Street and were among the first visitors to the new park.

"Rather than destroying this valuable piece of our history, we have recycled it into an innovative and exciting park that will provide more outdoor space for our citizens and create jobs and economic benefits for our City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Ten years ago, detractors thought the High Line was an eyesore. Thankfully, there were a handful of people who looked at the High Line and saw also an extraordinary gift to our city's future. Today, we will unwrap that gift."

"The opening of the High Line Park is a literal dream come true for New York City and for all of us that worked so hard to see this brilliant vision become a reality," said Speaker Quinn. "Starting tomorrow, New Yorkers across the five boroughs and visitors from around the world will be able to take a leisurely stroll thirty feet in the air through some of Manhattan's most historic neighborhoods in a way they never thought possible. Knowing that this once blighted and abandoned railroad bed, previously seen as an absolute eyesore, is now one of the most innovative and celebrated parks in the world is a magnificent testament to the power of civic-mindedness, creativity, and collaboration in our great city."

Access points to the High Line from street level are located at Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 18th Street and 20th Street and will be open during the park's operating hours, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The High Line's landscape is fully ADA-accessible, with an elevator at the 16th Street access point, and another at 14th Street to open in July. Visitor access may be limited during the High Line's first summer season due to the anticipated high volume of visitors and the High Line's limited capacity, as well as ongoing construction and horticulture work. During this opening season, visitors will be directed to enter the park at the Gansevoort Street access point, unless an elevator is needed.

The High Line's design is inspired by the wild, self-seeded landscape that grew up naturally on the High Line when the trains stopped running in 1980. It retains the original railroad tracks from the industrial structure and restored steel elements including the High Line's signature Art-Deco railings. An integrated system of concrete pathways, seating areas and special features blend with naturalistic planting areas to create a singular landscape.

"Open public space is a cherished entity in New York, and the High Line will bring new life to the whole West Side of Manhattan," said Borough President Stringer. "I am honored to be able to support its creation and want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Former City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the City Planning Commission, Friends of the High Line, Community Boards 2 and 4, preservationists, open-space advocates, design professionals and community-minded individuals for making it happen."

"Today's opening of the first section of the High Line demonstrates our commitment to finding innovative ways to continue adding open space to New York City," said Commissioner Benepe. "Thanks to a fundamental partnership between City government, elected officials, and an extraordinary, grass-roots citizen organization, Friends of the High Line, this park project is the most exciting in generations. This new public park, elevated 30 feet above the ground, will serve a neighborhood in need of parkland and attract visitors from around the world."

The opening of the first section of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, will be followed by the completion of construction and public opening of Section 2, from 20th Street to 30th Street, in 2010.

The total cost for Section One and Two of the High Line is $152.3 million. The design and construction cost of the section of the park that opened today is $86.2 million. Funding for the project includes $112.2 million from the City, $20.3 million from the federal government, and $400,000 from the State. Remaining funds will be raised privately by Friends of the High Line as part of their operating agreement with the City. To date, Friends of the High Line has raised $44 million in their capital campaign for the High Line.

Construction of the High Line Section One and Two has created 344 new construction jobs.

"The Highline is an extraordinary project that takes a unique piece of New York's 20th Century industrial past and repurposes it for the 21st Century," said EDC President Seth W. Pinsky. "When we at EDC began work on the Highline more than three years ago, the far West Side of Manhattan was still in the early stages of its renaissance. We are proud to see that, as this project opens to the public, the promise that it represented has already catalyzed a remarkable transformation of this great and storied neighborhood."

Friends of the High Line Fundraising Will Support Parks Maintenance and Operations.

During the ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg also announced $20 million in new gifts to the High Line's capital campaign: a $10 million challenge gift the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, and a $10 million matching gift from Philip and Lisa Maria Falcone. These gifts are part of a fundraising effort by the non-profit group Friends of the High Line, the private partner to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. These capital funds go toward Friends of the High Line's commitment to bring private funds to the High Line's construction and to build an endowment to support future maintenance and operations.

"Ten years in the making, the High Line is a testament to what New Yorkers can accomplish if they dream big and work together," said Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond, "In these challenging times, gifts like those from the Diller - von Furstenberg Family Foundation and Philip and Lisa Maria Falcone will allow us to finish construction on Section 2 and help build an endowment for the future maintenance of the High Line."

With the opening of the first section of the High Line, Friends of the High Line, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, begins its role as the conservancy charged with maintaining and operating the High Line. Under a license agreement with the Parks Department, Friends of the High Line is responsible for raising the private funds for and staffing the High Line's day to day maintenance and operations on behalf of the Parks Department, as well as public programming and outreach related to the park.

Friends of the High Line began advocating for the High Line's reuse as public open space in 1999. In 2002, the Bloomberg Administration endorsed the project when it filed with the United States Surface Transportation Board requesting authorization to create a railbanked trail on the High Line. The Surface Transportation Board granted a Certificate of Interim Trail Use in June 2005. The High Line structure south of 30th Street was donated to the City of New York by CSX Transportation, Inc., in November 2005. Construction began on the High Line's transformation into a public park in 2006.

The High Line park design team is led by James Corner Field Operations, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf, and consultants in lighting design, structural engineering, and many other disciplines. The design team was selected through a competition held by the City of New York and Friends of the High Line in 2004.

City Rezoning Has Catalyzed Development Along High Line, New Downtown Whitney Museum

Much of the new park lies within the West Chelsea Special District, a zoning area specially created by the City in June 2005 that has fostered development along the High Line and in the West Chelsea neighborhood. The rezoned area has provided opportunities for new residential and commercial development, facilitated the reuse of the High Line as a unique park, created and maintained affordable housing, and enhanced the neighborhood's art gallery district.

Since the West Chelsea rezoning, a total of 1,374 new housing units -132 of which are affordable units - and just under 500,000 square feet of commercial office space were completed or put into construction along the High Line from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street. A total of 33 new housing, commercial, retail, non-profit and gallery projects are completed, in construction, or in the planning stage as a result of the new economic development opportunities provided by the High Line.

"The West Chelsea/High Line Special District, which uses the High Line as its defining element and organizing principle, carefully balances the multiple goals of preserving and transforming the High Line, protecting the art gallery district, creating new housing and an economically integrated neighborhood," said City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden. "This complex plan and visually magical public open space have catalyzed private investment and attracted architectural talent and innovation from around the world."

The City's Economic Development Corporation and Department of Cultural Affairs are finalizing a land sale contract with the Whitney Museum of American Art that will lead to the creation of a major cultural anchor to the High Line at Gansevoort Street. The Whitney's new downtown museum, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, is to be located at the southern terminus of the High Line. Approval of this project pursuant to the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) occurred in September 2008. Design work for the project is underway.

"This agreement will allow the Whitney to develop an extraordinary cultural venue on Manhattan's West Side," said Commissioner Kate D. Levin. "We look forward to a strong public-private partnership with the Whitney leadership in creating this wonderful complement to the High Line, engaging visitors from around the corner and around the world."

"The Whitney is enormously grateful to Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, Borough President Stringer, our partners at the State and the local community for their ongoing support and confidence in our downtown building project," said Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney. "The land purchase agreement is a critical step towards realizing this transformative project. On a spectacular site adjacent to the High Line, and with Renzo Piano's brilliant design, the downtown Whitney will advance our mission boldly as the defining museum of 20th- and 21st-century American art."


Stu Loeser/Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Nicole Kolinsky (City Council)   (212) 788-0260

Jama Adams/Cristina DeLuca   (Parks Department)
(212) 360-1311

Katie Lorah (Friends of the High Line)   (212) 206-9922

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