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The Downside of the High Line

Yes, there are critics of the High Line, and this is a particularly strident one. Accusing the park not only of gentrification of Manhattan's West Chelsea, Jeremiah Moss attributes the High Line's popularity to transforming NYC into Disney World.
August 27, 2012, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Echoing some of the same concerns raised in a recent post by Planetizen blogger Sam Hall Kaplan, the author, who blogs under the pen name Jeremiah Moss at Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, accuses the High Line of becoming "a tourist-clogged catwalk and a catalyst for some of the most rapid gentrification in the city's history."

The High Line has become one of the City's most popular attractions. "Travel + Leisure named the High Line as No. 10 on its list of the world's most popular landmarks," the High Line's blog reported Feb. 22, 2012. In fact, T +L notes that the park is one of only five NYC places to make the "World's Most Popular Landmarks".

"Not yet four years old, the High Line has already become another stop on the must-see list for out-of-towners, another chapter in the story of New York City's transformation into Disney World," writes Moss.

Moss believes the gentrification of the West Chelsea area is not solely due to the park's popularity but "by design" by becoming "a tool for the Bloomberg administration's creation of a new, upscale, corporatized stretch along the West Side". Moss points to the "rezoned West Chelsea for luxury development" that began in the early stages of the park's development in 2005, a charge rebutted by the park's co-founders (see below).

Moss writes that the neighborhood's transformation "is good news for the elite economy but not for many who have lived and worked in the area for decades... even with the proliferation of art galleries near the West Side Highway, West Chelsea was a mix of working-class residents and light-industrial businesses."

Yet for urbanists, it may be difficult to sympathize with some of Moss' charges, particularly his lamenting the loss of 'gasoline alley'.

"Mostly auto-related establishments that don't fit into Michael R. Bloomberg's luxury city vision, several vanished in mere months... Bear Auto Shop was out after decades; the Olympia parking garage, after 35 years, closed when its rent reportedly quintupled."

In short, the High Line's success ruffles Jeremiah Moss.... a lot!

While acknowledging the prices of the park's success in a local neighborhood newspaper article, "Crowds, development and concerns", park co-founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond and others provide an alternative perspective.

"David said that the gentrification of West Chelsea didn't begin with the High Line. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani opposed saving the High Line but was accelerating the process of rezoning the area for residential development."

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Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 in The New York Times - Opinion
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