Final section of New York's High Line set to open

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The east end of the High Line Spur at 10th Avenue and West 30th Street shows the original 1934 NY Central viaduct, where the tracks fed in to the adjacent Morgan Post Office.
Ralph Spielman
This map on the High Line shows the location of the Spur.
Ralph Spielman
A large sculpture adorns a plaza at the east end of the Spur. The embedded tracks, a proviso of the CSX donation that made the High Line possible, are evident.

NEW YORK — The final piece of the High Line park, the 500-foot-long Spur, is scheduled to open today just ahead of the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the 1.5-mile linear park built on a former elevated railway structure.

The extension will be the last of four sections of the park built on a structure that opened in 1934 to take rail freight from adjacent motor traffic-laden streets, after children died in train-related accidents. The park, the first section of which opened on June 9, 2009, combines gardens, art pieces, performance spaces and Hudson River views on an intact, embedded railroad line, ready to be re-awakened should the need arise.  

The final revenue Conrail freight on the former West Side Line south of 34th Street was in April of 1980, an engine and three carloads of turkeys. Why did the whole section remain available for preservation or gentrification?


Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line, the organization that oversees the park, and co-founder Joshua David met at a community meeting and devised the idea to save the structure in August of 1999, after a previous attempt by Peter Obletz which started 16 years earlier. 

“After Josh and I devised the project,” Hammond told Trains News Wire, “we went on a tour given by a then-owner CSX representative to enhance future non-rail line development. She explained that structural demolition would cost between $7 and $30 million, CSX wanted someone else do something with it and avoid the expense. We were both drawn to the differences that existed — It was above the ground, abandoned, it offered a lush plant life in a gritty industrial context; on top it was light and airy; at street level, it was dark. The contrast amazed us.”

Planning started later that year. In 2005, the Surface Transportation Board gave assent to decommissioning rail operations on the structure. After the first section opened in 2009, subsequent portions opened in 2012 and 2014, providing a walkway along the former right-of-way. The High Line was donated by CSX to City of New York, and is under the jurisdiction of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation. It is jointly operated by the city and the Friends of the High Line, and expects to see more than 9 million visitors this year.

The new section, the Spur, will feature a wide space over 10th Avenue nearly the newly opened Hudson Yards with trees and flowers, rest rooms, a seating area, and food vendors. Rails embedded in the concrete will remind visitors of its former purpose — and reflects a condition of CSX’s donation: that the entire rail structure should revert back to a working rail line if needed with an easement in place. The structure could be linked to the Amtrak Empire Corridor at the north end if need arose. Removal and reinstallation of the embedded rail line was a public-private effort, with costs shared by the city and Friends of the High Line.

The Spur was built to service the Morgan Post Office, a bulk mail facility built in 1933 to provide for more than 8,000 mail trains a year. As late as 1964, up to four mail trains a day were scheduled in and out of the facility. The post office was almost destroyed in a December 1967 fire that incinerated eight mail-carrying cars inside; by the time it reopened in 1979, the sidings into the building had been permanently blocked off.

Its preservation was not always certain. Related Companies, which developed the recently opened Hudson Yards [see “New York marks opening of development over West Side rail yard,” Trains News Wire, March 18, 2019] originally offered a 2008 plan hat did not include the High Line’s Spur. That plan was withdrawn shortly thereafter by supporters who demonstrated that the High Line was a public resource.


NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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