The 'Troubling Irony' Beneath the High Line

Presenting the case of New York's High Line, student Sahra Mirbabaee questions who benefits from the city's investments.
JasonParis / Flickr

New York City’s 1.45-mile long High Line was a costly public endeavor, Mirbabaee writes. Following the project’s first two installments, which cost a reported $152.3 million, its third is expected to cost an additional $86.2 million. This is to be accompanied by annual operating costs ranging between $2 million -$4 million. For Miarbabaee, however, the public investment – which funded half of the project – has been more than questionable. 

Although attracting praise from architects, planners, and visitors alike, the High Line has been a source of considerable trouble for nearby residents. By fueling gentrification, Mirbabaee argues that the project raised living costs in the areas around the High Line and forced many local residents to leave their homes.

For Mirbabaee, there is a “troubling irony” in the project’s aesthetic, which “…exudes a ‘cool’ image of feigned neglect.” “Commodifying ostensibly lower-class spaces for supposedly higher classes,” Mirbabaee continues, “is both patronizing and divisive.”

There is a fundamental need to pose the question of who benefits from the city’s investments, argues Mirbabaee. Given Mayor Bloomberg’s recent proposal to cut $170 million from the city’s childcare services funding, Mirbabaee suspects a case of “disproportionate public investment in real estate”.

“Reversing this misappropriation of funds,” Mirbabaee writes, “would allow us all to build more vibrant neighborhoods than the High Line’s designers could ever have imagined.”

Full Story: Poverty below the high line

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