Manhattan Miracle: How Jacksonville-based CSX helped save NYC’s High Line

When you search “what to do in New York City,” the normal tourist destinations always pop up – Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Empire State Building, etc.

Over the past couple years, another must-see attraction has been added to the list: the High Line, which is a 1.5 mile walking trail located in the middle of Manhattan that is lined with wild flowers and plants. What makes this trail so special that it welcomes over 5 million visitors annually?

1. It is elevated 25 feet above the city streets of NYC’s lower west side and gives the feeling as if you’re floating above the congestion below.

High Line

2. Finding a park in the middle of a metropolis is rare. The High Line boasts over 650 different species of plants, trees, and flowers planted along the trail as well as modern-style park benches and other resting areas.

3. Entertainment. There are cafes, live music, art, unique building designs, and amazing people-watching along this elevated footpath. The scenery is always changing! Click here for upcoming events.

4. New York City originally wanted to knock it down.

High Line

Flashback to 1999: The High Line was just an overgrown, dilapidated rail line that hadn’t been used since the 1980’s. New York City viewed it is an eye sore in a gentrifying Chelsea neighborhood and proposed to knock it down. A New York Times article named it the ‘biggest blight in the city’.

Enter CSX Transportation, the Jacksonville-based railroad company, who came to own this section of rail line through an acquisition. CSX started presenting ideas on how to re-purpose the structure at a public hearing. Ideas ranged from a rolling billboard to a horizontal parking lot.

High Line

At that same public hearing, local Chelsea residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond were in attendance as well. They were enraged that the city wanted to knock down this piece of their neighborhood’s history. So, they started a non-profit called Friends of the High Line and their mission was to preserve the High Line to use as public space.

After a couple years of planning and advocating, CSX, Friends of the High Line, and New York City finally all agreed on the current High Line design that we see today.

CSX donated the whole structure to NYC in November 2005.

Construction started in April 2006 and the High Line officially opened in 2009. It continues to be a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Additionally, other cities around the world have been inspired by the success of the High Line and are exploring ways to re-purpose their existing infrastructure.

Is there a vacant building or park in your city? Could it be developed into a public space or have another use?

Start thinking about it… then take action. You can make a difference in your community!

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