Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Disney World on the Hudson

The New York Times printed my Op-Ed today on how the High Line "has become a tourist-clogged catwalk and a catalyst for some of the most rapid gentrification in the city’s history."

August 21, 2012
Disney World on the Hudson

WHEN the first segment of the High Line, the now-famous park built atop an old elevated railway on the West Side of Manhattan, opened in 2009, I experienced a moment of excitement. I had often wondered what it would be like to climb that graffiti-marked trestle with its wild urban meadow. Of course, I’d seen the architectural renderings and knew not to expect a wilderness. Still, the idea was enticing: a public park above the hubbub, a contemplative space where nature softens the city’s abrasiveness.

Today it’s difficult to remember that initial feeling. The High Line has become a tourist-clogged catwalk and a catalyst for some of the most rapid gentrification in the city’s history.

My skepticism took root during my first visit. The designers had scrubbed the graffiti and tamed the wildflowers. Guards admonished me when my foot moved too close to a weed. Was this a park or a museum? I felt like I was in the home of a neatnik with expensive tastes, afraid I would soil the furnishings.

But the park was a hit. Fashion models strutted up and down. Shoppers from the meatpacking district boutiques commandeered the limited number of benches, surrounded by a phalanx of luxury clothing bags. I felt underdressed.

That rarefied state didn’t last, though. As the High Line’s hype grew, the tourists came clamoring. Originally meant for running freight trains, the High Line now runs people, except where those people jam together like spawning salmon crammed in a bottleneck. The park is narrow, and there are few escape routes. I’ve gotten close to a panic attack, stuck in a pool of stagnant tourists at the park’s most congested points.

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. According to the park’s Web site, 3.7 million people visited the High Line in 2011, only half of them New Yorkers. It’s this overcrowding — not just of the High Line, but of the streets around it — that’s beginning to turn the tide of sentiment.

Recently, an anonymous local set off a small media storm by posting fliers around the park that read: “Attention High Line tourists. West Chelsea is not Times Square. It is not a tourist attraction.” A local newspaper talked to a 24-year-old who reported that young people who once met for dates at the park now say, “How about doing something that doesn’t involve the High Line?”

But the problem isn’t just the crowds. It’s that the park, which will eventually snake through more than 20 blocks, is destroying neighborhoods as it grows.

And it’s doing so by design. While the park began as a grass-roots endeavor — albeit a well-heeled one — it quickly became a tool for the Bloomberg administration’s creation of a new, upscale, corporatized stretch along the West Side. As socialites and celebrities championed the designer park during its early planning stages, whipping community support into a heady froth, the city rezoned West Chelsea for luxury development in 2005.

The neighborhood has since been completely remade. Old buildings fell and mountain ranges of glassy towers with names like High Line 519 and HL23 started to swell — along with prices.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation published a study last year stating that before the High Line was redeveloped, “surrounding residential properties were valued 8 percent below the overall median for Manhattan.” Between 2003 and 2011, property values near the park increased 103 percent.

This is good news for the elite economy but not for many who have lived and worked in the area for decades. It’s easy to forget that until very recently, 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.

But the High Line is washing all that away. D&R Auto Parts saw its profits fall by more than 35 percent. Once-thriving restaurants like La Lunchonette and Hector’s diner, a local anchor since 1949, have lost their customer base.

Hardest hit have been the multigenerational businesses of “gasoline alley.” Mostly auto-related establishments that don’t fit into Michael R. Bloomberg’s luxury city vision, several vanished in mere months, like species in a meteoric mass extinction. Bear Auto Shop was out after decades; the Olympia parking garage, after 35 years, closed when its rent reportedly quintupled.

Brownfeld Auto, on West 29th Street near 10th Avenue, lost its lease after nearly a century. Today it’s another hole in the ground. Its third-generation owner, Alan Brownfeld, blamed the High Line for taking away the thriving business he’d inherited from his grandfather. “It’s for the city’s glamorous people,” he said.

Mr. Brownfeld is right, for now. But just as the High Line’s early, trendy denizens gave way to touristic hordes, Chelsea’s haute couture moment may be fleeting. As big a brand as Stella McCartney is, she can’t compete with global chains like Sephora, which are muscling into the area’s commercial space.

Within a few years, the ecosystem disrupted by the High Line will find a new equilibrium. The aquarium-like high rises will be for the elite, along with a few exclusive locales like the Standard Hotel. But the new locals will rarely be found at street level, where chain stores and tourist-friendly restaurants will cater to the crowds of passers-by and passers-through. Gone entirely will be regular New Yorkers, the people who used to call the neighborhood home. But then the High Line was never really about them.

See Also:
Chelsea Mobil
Atlas Meats
Bear Auto
Brownfeld Auto
Folsom East and The Eagle


Luna Park said...

Congrats! Could not have said it better myself.

JM said...

Great, great op-ed. Short, to the point, and dead on. Bloomberg has never understood New York and never fathomed why it was an incredible city. He could only see success in making it over for people like himself--out of towners with more money than God. Even with his gaudy election spending and de facto bribing of city groups for their support, I cannot fathom how he has managed to get elected and even overturn term limits to allow his third term. We have had Jimmy Walker's corrupt bon vivant, LaGuardia's everyman fireplug, Koch's tough New Yorker, Giuliani's ultimately persnickety hall monitor, but it took Bloomberg's Marie Antoinette to bring down the city to a one-dimensional theme park parody of its former self. We can only hope that after this term, he will take his pink cashmere sweater and go back to New England, where he probably won't fit in, either.

iheartunity said...

well put. I find that people shrug at the sort of development and displacement the High Line represents, as if it is the natural, inevitable and unstoppable force of our species. But, in fact, small groups of individuals craft this kind thing ... Anyway: thanks for your op-ed.

EV Grieve said...

Nicely done, Jeremiah — your op-ed sums it up perfectly.

And the one demographic that the current mayor doesn't relate to or care about...

"Gone entirely will be regular New Yorkers"

MadAsHellAndNotGoingToTakeIt! said...

iheartunity said...
well put. I find that people shrug at the sort of development and displacement the High Line represents, as if it is the natural, inevitable and unstoppable force of our species.

SO well put, yourself! Eh, so what, the city has to change, blablabla. Never mind that we who live here are inconvenienced, that we cannot afford to live here, that we are not only trampled by tourists but by those who want yet another hipster venue!

Anonymous said...

jeremiah, any chance you could publish the full text on your blog so we wouldn't have to give the nytimes - which is the main champion of the philosophy and the elites that you are criticizing - any traffic?

James C. Taylor said...


Unknown said...

I see your point, and you've writen an well-crafted and impassioned article, but I have to say that I see it two ways. First, I'm one of those tourists; I grew up in NYC but no longer live there. And I'm not a "moneyed tourist"; I crash on my friends sofa when I come to NYC and I take the bus! But in terms of the High Line, I do think it is a lovely piece of construction and it fills a real need for a public park space in this area. I have followed the project with great interest and find it amazing that it ever came to be. But the reality is that this project costs money, and it required deals and this resulted in the gentrification of the area as in order for it to happen, some of the people who supported it wanted to cash in. I think the founders of the project are purists and really wished for it be a great public space which it is. And then there are the moneyed sorts who find a way to cash in whenever possible; the 1% really.

Elwood D Pennypacker said...

I remember when the push for the High Line began, there was a big festival of movies and music and whatnot, little of it in the area around the actual High Line. Do you remember David Bowie was the nominal head of the festival and admitted to the press he didn't even know what the High Line was?

He came to the movie theater at which I worked at the time. The only thing I said to him was "sir you're blocking the path" to which he said "oh sorry mate". So that made him OK in my book...also his records are often quite good, so that helps.

ANYWAY - the High Line is a farce. It's visually impressive for all of 15 minutes then you have to worry about your physical safety. Tripping over the darn planks. Tripping over the tourists. Being bumped into by zoned-out Yunnies.

I have a lot of friends who I love who think the High Line is great. But I'm a curmudgeon and a nativist and a mild socialist. This thing is the pits.

timmmyk said...

As someone who has made 'enjoyable' use of the Highline when it was not open or easily accessible to the public back in the 80's, at night, I am amused to see armies of tourists soullessly marching along as if it is an endurance course where the finishers will receive an award of some kind. I shot some video and played it at a lunch pizza meeting at work one day and my boss thanked me because he then realized that he never needed to ever go there, even for the sake of saying that he did.

That being said, I live on West 23rd Street and there are now at least 3 homeless people living on the sidewalk on my block alone. A number of long time businesses have vanished, there are a plethora of empty apartments across the street from me in several buildings which had been almost fully occupied the subway is filthy once again and the one thing I am sorta grateful for is that people are actually acknowledging each other more often, sitting down in front of shops and having actual conversations, possibly because they aren't snobbishly sizing each other up for net worth, but what do I know, I only live here & don't make the rules.
But let's make sure that out of towners can tramp along a former freight railway and look at not very interesting scenery as long as there is someone waiting to sell them overpriced casual cuisine when they descend. Boy oh boy, can't wait for the shine to dull from this bland monument to expensive indiscretion and Highline trinkets to eventually appear, no matter what the "Friends of the Highline" have to say for now. Ooh wait, a 'chase scene' for a Blockbuster movie will have to be filmed there first.

marjorie said...

Bravo, Jeremiah!!!! You marshaled actual facts and numbers and stats in a clear way that I think will give even reflexive High Line boosters pause.

Anonymous said...

Please publish the entire article so I don't have to give the Times a dime to read it. Thank you, it's great.

Jeremiah Moss said...

just did. enjoy!

Marty Wombacher said...

Beautifully written and well put! Great op-ed piece, Jeremiah!

Ed said...

Some of this ties into to the earlier blog post on slow walking tourists. The shuffle that is now the dominant way of walking here has pretty much destroyed the pleasure of just walking around and looking at things, which I understand was the point of the Highline park. Its also ruined walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at most hours of the day.

For me, the most frustrating change during the last decade was the loss of the ability to walk around parts of the city at a normal pace. Most of the other stuff are just more intense versions of trends that are happening nationwide or worldwide. We were going to see some of the concentration of wealth, cultural stagnation, a heavier police presence and so on because these things are happening everywhere in the world. But New Yorkers didn't have to change their gait to a shuffle.

I never liked the idea of a Highline park, since that thing was originally a railroad and I think it could have been converted to light rail. Even if the structure itself couldn't have been converted, the right of way was valuable for that purpose.

GAF said...

Mazel tov! Wonderful to see the home team represented in the Tired Old Gray Lady.

Anonymous said...

I like your style Jeremiah, but where is your message going? It seems like you have already given up to the corporate interests. One can't fight capitalism, you know. The tourists aren't to blame, they deserve an exciting city to visit, not Dizzyland! The passivity of your piece points to a burning anger. Maybe it is time to use this anger to start a new city which is worth visiting?

Michael said...

Congratulations, dude! It needed to be said, but everyone else was afraid to say it. I don't even know you but I am proud of you!

Little Earthquake said...

Excellent piece, Jeremiah. Well argued and convincing. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

I am a regular reader of your awesome blog but this is my first comment here. I'll probably be in the city another year or so but I am sad to see it become a theme park for the rich. I used to live in west chelsea, right by the high line, but left a few months after the high line park got there. the neighborhood's changed completely - it will be condo-land in a few years.

See the irony here:)

"While Mr. Hammond might take a prospective donor on a tour of the High Line, he usually chooses other parks for his own relaxation"

Crazy Eddie said...

Wonderful op-ed, Jeremiah, thanks. “As big a brand as Stella McCartney is, she can’t compete with global chains like Sephora, which are muscling into the area’s commercial space.” This sentence is brilliant, showing that even a small scale luxury boutique, the sort of development loved by the gentrifiers to “improve" a neighborhood, can be swamped and cheapened by chains. About a year ago, after my wife’s birthday, we decided to hit the High Line around 2 PM on a Saturday. She had never been there before. Well, as you can imagine, “The horror…….the horror”. Especially that narrow stretch past 23nd street. It was like the Bataan death march but with two way traffic. This is not an exaggeration. Even the tourists were not smiling. We could not wait to escape at the 30th street exit, only to find ourselves surrounded by foul-smelling food trucks at the street level. We quickly got the f**k out of there. When Larry David and Jeff Garlin were filmed walking along it (of course, they had plenty of room) in a scene from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, well, “It's over Johnny. It's over!”

Anonymous said...

Read your piece in today's Times. I couldn't agree more. A NYC resident, I visited a couple of years ago at the urging of a friend. Although I send my visitors there, I'll never go back - it all feels fake to me.

Boring Arsenal said...

I read with great interest, your Op-Ed in today's Times. One of the issues I have is with the idea of tourism; compulsive travel is the beit noire of the Elite class. Many redevelopment plans here in LA, consist of the same cruel fate; destroy affordable housing, clear out the neighborhood business owners, and create a Disney-style spectacle for us bored, jaded masses to sip $3.00 coffee and get pushed and shoved, running a gauntlet of tourists and phony fashionistas.
Gentrification is often just a ploy to eradicate working class enclaves; coupled with vapid tourism, all of America will become one big amusement park.

JAZ said...

Beautifully written piece - if the Times were smart, they'd take you on for a regular feature on Vanishing New York; I think it would be an extremely popular read.

Filmatix said...

Excellent op-ed, sir! Sometimes you have to be bedfellows with the Old Gray Lady to get the message across, especially beyond the (utterly devoted) choir you've amassed here.

I second Ed's frustration with the inability to just wander, contemplate, and enjoy many parts of the city these days, especially his reference to the Brooklyn Bridge.

There are days when it's nice to stroll on it and take in the view, and other days when I merely need to get across the bridge into Manhattan. But you can't relax on it anymore, because it's packed beyond belief, and you can't walk on it because people don't know how not to walk 4 abreast and force you into irate bikers' paths just to get around them as they take their glacial-pace time.

Meanwhile, most of the people relaxing on it aren't really taking in the view at all. They are spending 75% of the time looking at one of most amazing views in the world through an iPhone or other camera. How sad to visit one of the most spectacular places in the world and only live it second-hand. It's the same with tourists who come and spend about a second clicking on a hundred or so "must-see" paintings at the Met or MoMa, and enjoying their museum at home, and not in real time.

I'd imagine someone's trying to convince the city to build a Shake Shack-on-stilts midway across the bridge soon.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the eye-opening perspective that confirms what I long-suspected, but was afraid to admit: this City is losing its soul. The same thing is happening to places such as Montauk, L.I., which used to be where you could go to get away from the City and to enjoy the beach, the docks, and its own brand of characters, but is now being overrun with the same loud, self-indulgent, and obnoxious hipster types that now inhabit the High Line, Wall Street, and, sadly, Brooklyn.

Anthony Esposito said...

The endgame to all of this will be Manhattan as a gated-community where the world's rich live and the tourists and service people will be electronically validated, given entry and surveilled by technology that is available today but will be paid for by the residents of Manhattan. I would assume eventually Manhattan will become a principality under the jurisdiction of a largely autonomous corporate constitution overseen by an appointed Chief Executive and protected by the US military at large and a local paramilitary on the ground. The closest thing I can think of would be something like a Singapore-on-Hudson. It should be fun.

Peter Scott said...

I was very pleased to read your piece (in particular in the Times) because I've felt the same way about the High Line since it opened but had difficulty finding other
people who shared my feelings. Because the idea of having an elevated park on a disused train track is not a bad one, I think the High Line was a lost opportunity
to create something for the public that avoided privatization and spectacle. I guess this was a naive position, as the proximity of the site to the budding luxury condo market was too good to be true for developers and hoteliers.

What the High Line (even the name suggests mindless extravagance) could have been was a novel place for a new public park designed by city architects, with standard issue benches, a simple boardwalk, and as much of the initial vegetation left in place as is practical. It would have been far cheaper, and with fewer private
funds in the mix it would have been less susceptible to the spectacle-laden design that comes with engaging brand name architects. The ordinariness of the design would have made it less seductive to developers, and those horrible wooden "deck chairs" which evoke a luxury cruise ship would have never seen the light of day.

Unfortunately, the High Line represents yet another nail in the coffin of civic culture in New York and elsewhere, as cities around the world regurgitate their pasts into
commodified nostalgic retreats largely aimed (as your great piece points out) at at the tourist trade, ignoring interests and needs of the neighborhoods residents.
Somehow the obvious fact that you never seem to see people visiting the High Line who live just a block away in "the projects" is of little concern for its supporters,
who seem oblivious to the fact that this site represents yet another one of the "invisible borders" that increasingly divides New York by class and race.

Thanks again for your piece and congratulations on breaching the Times pro-High Line filter. I'm very curious as to what kind of letters they'll get.

Anonymous said...

High Taxes, stupid regulations, friends with benefits, Corruption, popularity of NYU, New York City reminds me of a giant college campus especially Union Sq. and below.

The Library Lady said...

What you are seeing here is what I have seen going on all over Manhattan and Brooklyn for the past 20 years.

It appalls me that Manhattan is going the way of Brooklyn--clearing out working people and affordable housing and replacing it with pricey ugly buildings so that hipsters from the Midwest can pretend to be "real" New Yorkers.

And when the NY Times recently had a piece called "Why Can't the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn?" my response and that of a lot of other Bronxites was "thank god it isn't!"

Kenneth Casper said...

Well timed. I suppose I'm a tourist - despite living in Fairfield CT. I tend to come in to the city for entertainment and culture. Last weekend I decided to finally walk the High Line and I found it to be s you described - "an endurance test". The 8' corridor expected to accommodate 2 way foot traffic was clogged. But, I consider it to be a classic work of art. Like any great artwork, once I've seen it once I never need to see it again - but I leave with a cultural and visual reference that helps me to interpret the world around me.

The High Line no longer serves its conceived purpose. But, it is an example of a unique architecture and urban planning. It provides a lesson on how to reclaim and re-purpose a discarded and blighted structure. The concept of the High Line will be copied and referenced in urban renewal projects around the world - and in places where such a concept might work as intended.

The High Line carries an extended metaphor that cities can thrive once again. It is a product of urban renaissance. And, that cities are growing again is good thing for a variety of environmental and social reasons. Without the success of pioneering initiatives like the High Line there is the Urban Renaissance is dead. Cities and neighborhoods must change in physical ways if they are to survive and thrive.

Perhaps it is disappointing for you to live in New York - whose success brings out curious "tourists" from around the world. Would you then rather live in Detroit where there is plenty of blight and all the genuineness of despair to revel in? There won't be any tourists to disturb your poetic love affair with the ruins of a used-to-be-successful city there.

Anonymous said...

Outdoor space is necessary for people living in the city to remain happy. Despite your insecurity about your clothes, there is no dress code for spending time on the high line. There is also no requirement for how much money you make or where you live. The High Line gives people in the area a great place to relax outdoors that is almost completely free of shopping. Too many outdoor activities in NYC are based around shopping so the High Line is a relaxing more healthy alternative. I don't want local businesses to fail either, but if the choice between a few old auto shops that really don't employ that many people and a clean park that can be enjoyed by millions and bring more jobs to the area, I choose the High Line.

Anonymous said...

Ugh - another example of a New Yorker who wants to complain about the very
thing he desired. I get it only to a small degree.

For me, the thing about New York, that this kind of dialog ignores is that New York...
or rather, Old New York is and has always been, a New York of constant and continuous change.
Of creating new out of old, of building and destruction, of crowding and coming to see it for the
very first time.

The term 'Jaded New Yorker' arises, I think, when those who once came with bright eyes
simply become Old New Yorkers. Tired and unable to appreciate the moments of change that
they are not only living BUT actually helped push to create themselves.

Personally, I love that I can walk down the High LIne during the middle of the day and NOT hear
a New York accent. That Italian, German, Spanish, Danish is gasping with amazement and what
New Yorkers have created.

To equate the two - the High Line and Times Square is like equating New York and Los Angeles.
Two completely different intents, different aesthetics and different experiences.

Personally, as someone, like the author, who has lived in the neighborhood long before the High
Line was the High Line, in fact directly across from one of the old gas stations and photographed by Spencer Tunic during one of his nude raids...I like that there is excitement and interest and I rather prefer not seeing only the local cat lady and street urchin ambling along filthy streets. If that's Disney I think then the author is lazy in his point of view as that's an old term that really has nothing to do with the High Line. Plus the fact that Disney isn't involved where it actually is in Times Square.

Lest he forget the High Line was a grassroots vision of passionate New Yorkers not the mayor or his cronies.

The selfishness of those New Yorkers who want to keep others out has always perplexed me. I'd suggest they move to less dynamic climes like Dallas or Nashville?

Caleo said...

Congratulations Jeremiah. Well done. Bloomberg and Burden and their compatriots have won, and turned the greatest city on Earth, a city that revolved around the people who actually lived here, into a literal theme park that revolves around tourism and mega wealth. The High Line is a microcosm of the rest of the city. The ridiculousness of what has happened to this town is exemplified by your description of the clogged artery known as the High Line.
Getting an Op-ed into the Times will certainly give a much larger audience a taste of the truth, but how many even want to hear it. And even if millions agree with you... what can any of us do, at this late stage, to stop the Leviathan from continuing it's path of destruction. NYU's expansion plan was approved. Rents continue to climb. Long time residents get forced to the outer boroughs, or move out of town all together,
This is all like a bad movie that never comes to an end.

Marc K said...

Wonderfully stated. Congrats on the NYT spot!!

Mick Ricereto said...

Fantastic piece. I was dismayed when I visited the HL (we stayed at the Standard). I understand it was originally inspired by the wildness and never-seen viewpoint of the city. It has neither now. Your observation of its limited access/escape and pinch-point design is woefully exacerbated by double-wide baby prams and 3-person abreast strolling.

My friends are involved in putting a similar park together in Philadelphia. The Reading Viaduct runs north out of Chinatown and is a wonderful relic. I do hope they learn some lessons from the HL. I doubt anything can be done about rampant gentrification but attention to circulation and keeping the platform wild-feeling is still in their grasp.

Philboid Studge said...

I'm not sure I understand the lament about the loss of gasoline alley. Autobody shops are leaving ? That's a good thing. A parking garage closed? Good. Autoparts business down 35%? Super. The more difficult it becomes to drive, store, and repair cars in the city, the more the quality of life in the city will improve. With these changes come -- or will come -- cleaner air, more bike paths, more pedestrian walkways, better mass transit. Not all 'vanishings' are bad.
P.S. I'd like to see the data that support the dubious claim that La Lunchonette and Hector’s have lost customers. It's hard to believe, given the influx of millions of pedestrians who weren't there three years ago.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks everyone for the supportive comments. i think the Times' interest in and acceptance of this piece shows that people are having more complex feelings about the High Line now, and not just the initial excitement. that was a big part of this essay--due to word count restrictions, i couldn't fit everything in that i wanted to say.

one thing i'm very curious about is the way the High Line has been teflon to criticism. one commenter here mentioned being "afraid" to criticize it. i think this is something many people experience. as if there's a fiat, "The High Line shall not be criticized."

but we must all think and speak critically about the city and what is happening to it.

the High Line is a lovely piece of architecture in many ways, and it has also ushered in tremendous loss for many people. that can't be ignored.

it also was the handmaiden of Bloomberg's luxury rezoning of West Chelsea.

in their book High Line, the founders show how Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff signed on to the High Line plan in large part because he got a yes to the question, “Do you think that the community likes the High Line enough to make them supportive of the rezoning in West Chelsea?”

editrrix said...

Well written, Jeremiah. It's refreshing to see this piece in the NYT. I couldn't agree more. Gone are the days when you could wander around Chelsea, camera in hand, and wonder about what remained of the meatpacking industry. It was a quiet place riddled with ghosts. Now it's a place to show off your $700 shoes (but it's sort of funny to watch those gals try to wing it on cobblestones!) Remind me to tell you about the time I got kicked off the HL because I was carrying my dog in a bag! Though she never touched the park surface, I was ordered off immediately. Such hospitality from its "security".

Jeremiah Moss said...

the owner of Hector's diner told me that business dropped when the High Line opened. the owner of La Lunchonette told the same thing to AMNY.

the online version of this Op-Ed in the Times has hotlinks to some of these sources.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the piece. I enjoyed Highline but was quickly bored by it all. I like old New York. That is why I moved here.

New New York is something built for out of town people by an out of town mayor. He is from another Town and he is always out of town? Where he is is your guess?

I guess the Tompkins Square uprising people who said NYC was going to be Yuppified during the end of the Koch administration were right. They literally fought back in the streets. The end of an era and the beginning of the end.

Now I understand why the music and art coming out of NYC is so boring- because the city is boring.

Yeah it's exciting to tourist and many of the midwest transplants but these are the same people that think Disney World is fabulous.

Why don't we just start another
"Mike" for mayor campaign during the next election? Mike Eisner that is.

Last I heard he was chilling, enjoying his billion dollars worth of Disney compensations.

A perfect candidate as New New Yorkers love Disney, Mikes, clipped accents and mayors with gigantic personal fortunes.

I don't have to take contributions as new Mike will pay for the campaign himself.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Excellent piece, Jeremiah. Thank you.

Crazy Eddie said...

“Autobody shops are leaving ? That's a good thing. A parking garage closed? Good. Autoparts business down 35%? Super. The more difficult it becomes to drive, store, and repair cars in the city, the more the quality of life in the city will improve.” And who is going to fix and service the commercial vehicles and cabs that make this city run? Businesses that actually employed and provided services to the middle class and working class people who actually live here? Yes, F them. And if and when you need an ambulance or a police car, I hope that you refuse them and demand an artisanal, free range, sustainable bamboo pedicab to respond to you instead.

MissNYC said...

I love this blog. I am a born and raised New Yorker in my mid-thrities, now living in Alaska. I was essentially forced out of the city in my late twenties by the outrageous cost of living, brought about by the Disney-fication that you have observed. It pains me that I can't even afford to raise my kids in my own hometown.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I do not understand the praise for this Op-Ed. Mr. Moss brings nothing to the table. Only complaints. He does not give insight of how the current situation can be improved, or what could and should be done for future redevelopment within the City.

Cities are not stagnant entities. West Chelsea was going to change with or without the High Line, and was changing before the High Line opened. The High Line is a canard. Clearly, it is accelerating change, but it is not the ultimate cause of the changes Mr. Moss complains about.

For the business being displaced, I am truly sorry. This is clearly a situation of bad planning. The City should have been prepared to relocate "gasoline alley" to a more financially stable location. It should have been clear that these would be the first type of businesses to go.

Anonymous said...

Well said, as always. This piece should be read by those iHighline zombies. Then again, they are daft, lack empathy, and such narcissists that they won't care or dont know what the heck are you talking about. The High Line is just the tip of the iceberg. NYC soon will be Metropolis. And need not forget the planned Low Line, just look at its KickStarter funding, people are excited about that too not knowing the impact it'll have in the LES, much like what the High Line did to West Chelsea and meatpacking district.

Ms. said...

Just one more congratulation added in. I think the teflon is wearing off, it does that, and no small thanks to your efforts here.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Jeremiah, have you considered the alternate? The structure would have been demolished and your so-called gentrification would have happened anyway.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and this article is so great, I walk around in a miserable rage all the time at whats happened to NYC, but your article expresses it so beautifully. I was in a store yesterday and two young girls were asked for their phone numbers by the cashier, they said "704" or something and the cashier thought they said 718, and they both moaned "ooohhh, I wish it was 718, were from Florida", and I thought right there that is the problem. How can we detach NYC from the glamorous image that it's been linked with?

Anonymous said...

Came to read these comments just for the belly laughs, and was not disappointed. In a time when people in other parts of the world are actually going to prison for speaking out against entrenched interests, I love this idea of people being "afraid" to criticize the High Line. What would we do without our fearless vanguard of nostalgia bloggers? Thank you, brave prophet, for saying that which countless others have been afraid to say! Too much.

Some reasonable comments here, but also the usual outpouring of concentrated bitterness at "yunnies", tourists, "hipsters" or whatever - basically anyone who seems to be having a better time than you, as though NYC was devoid of assholes in 1977, or wherever we'd set our CBGB Time Machine to, if we could. These are your flock Jeremiah: people who self-identify as "nativists" with pride. People who "don't want to give the nytimes any traffic" (Yes, bold protectors of all that is good - the world would surely be much better without the NYTimes!) People who tell you that you're "brilliant" for pointing out that Sephora is a larger company than Stella McCartney. It's nice to be appreciated, I get it.

So fine - NYC has another tourist attraction, and another part of Manhattan has grown more upscale. What's shocking to me is how parochial and sclerotic one's view of the city must be, to find this upsetting enough to rant about it on the internet for years on end. This city is absolutely huge, and constantly being filled with new people - most of them not rich - and new ideas. It really is happening. Yes, you may have to leave the East Village (and maybe even Manhattan!) to witness/participate. Is the passage of time really making all of your lives that miserable?

David K. Lukmire said...

So you are upset because tourists visit the high line because it is an appealing thing to visit? Really?

Anonymous said...

J, great piece! John M is spot on: Bloomie is the new Marie Antoinette.

Phil Fish said...

zedzure said...

This post is so off the mark I had to read it again to be sure it wasn't a farce. The idea of complaining about gentrification in Chelsea - an area of Manhattan that has been gentrified several times over - is absurd. What's worse is that this type of rant distracts from real problems of gentrification that uproot long-standing, low-income communities (I'm not sure pre-High Line Chelsea with its slightly less than the already exhorbitantly high rents of Manhattan qualifies). This gentrification is happening, among other places, in Harlem with Columbia University's increasing expansion of its campus. This seems like a far more pressing problem with far greater consequenses to livelyhoods than the addition of a few more tourists to the Lower West Side.

unmutablejones said...

Congrats Jeremiah! I couldn't have said it better myself. If you want to bang your head against the wall at people who see different check out the reddit comments on this piece at

Alexander said...

I just love how the 35-60yo New Yorkers think the city began and should end the way it was in their youth.

Newflash: YOU fools also "changed" New York. And the generation before YOU "changed" New York. New York has always been about constant change! Compare the New York City of the early 1900s to the the dumpy New York City of the 70s. Trust me, the earlier generation of civilized New Yorkers probably looked at the filthy city you cretins ruined and took over during the crack era with disgust too.

You don't miss the old New York, you miss your youth.

I honestly love Bloomberg as mayor and will be sad to see him go. We still live in a free market and no one is entitled to live in a particular neighborhood simply because they grew up there. In a free market, you live where you can afford. Why can't the wealthy have Manhattan? New York City is 300+ square miles and Manhattan is what, 14 square miles? You proletariats run most of the city, leave Manhattan alone. Top percent pay 70% of taxes in New York City, let us enjoy the 14 square miles of this massive city. Why can't you "real NYers" just set up fort in the other boroughs like Bronx? Why are you so zoned in on Manhattan? There are so many neighborhoods in New York City that has all your beloved character! Filth, dirty poor people, run-down establishments, and it's affordable! Go!

Crazy Eddie said...

Hey Anony 2:42PM- Who the f**k is going to run this city? Your Masters of the Universe, tourists, NYU and Columbia students, fashion and media “consultants”, etc., etc.? Your Bloomberg/RE industry/Amanda Burden trolls? I don’t think so. That’s right break out that dusty old canard, leave Manhattan and go move to the far fringes of the outer boroughs, you working class slime. The “Dubai on the Hudson” is only for the privileged and wealthy. You know, I think we should bring back Patrick Bateman, your mentor and a man ahead of his time. GFY.

Crazy Eddie said...

Anyone with half a brain know that the hyper gentrification, as amply chronicled by Jeremiah’s blog, has been happening at an astounding pace since the horrors of 9/11 have worn off. Most local businesses have an average good run of about 10 years and that’s just the way it is. But the rate of local businesses that turn a profit being closed and replaced ad nauseum by chains and the businesses that cater to the Like Yah narcissist crowd has been frightening. Can you imagine any of these trolls posting on this tread going up to the Twin Towers to save anyone? A double GFY to you all.

Mark Rosenthal said...

I enjoyed the piece, but I believe that the real issue with the High Line has nothing to do with gentrification, or celebrities, or even the eventuality of change. It has to do with history and how, in modern urban spaces, it becomes erased from our past.

I lived in New York between 1980 and 2000. I return once or twice a year to hang out with my New York friends.

I love them dearly -- New Yorkers, in general, are special -- but the city feels like a stranger to me now. I found the High Line unimpressive -- like something designed in a studio, and plopped on top of a piece of the past.

When I speak of history I am not speaking of great historical events -- I am speaking of how spaces have been used over the years and whether they ought to be forgotten, remembered or, at the very least referred to.

When I came to New York in 1980 the area which the High Line now encompasses was an active and critical place for gay men to meet, socialize and, yes, have sex. In once sense, it was a hang out, in another it was incubator for free thought, sensuality, creativity, design . . . things that have so hugely contributed to New York's vitality today.

When designing the High Line, was there no way for the designers to refer to the amazing dynamism from which their project sprouted? At battery park there is a fence displaying the poems of Walt Whitman, another person who has helped define the essence of New York City. Shouldn't the High Line's design -- any urban design, really -- at least tell of a story? Or do we just want more coats of thick, beautiful, glossy paint? -- for that is what the High Line gives us.

I don't like the High Line's design. But who cares what I think? I'm mostly stuck in a bout of nostalgia; something that seems inevitable as we move on in life.

But what I find inexcusable is designing cities without giving at least a nod to history, to the the things that happened before, and how the past delivers us to the light of the present.

Mark Rosenthal said...

I enjoyed the piece, butI believe that the High Line has nothing to do with gentrification, or celebrities, or even the eventuality of change. It has to do with history and how, in modern urban spaces, it becomes erased from our past.

I lived in New York between 1980 and 2000. I return once or twice a year to hang out with my New York friends.

I love them dearly -- New Yorkers, in general, are special -- but the city feels like a stranger to me now. I found the High Line unimpressive -- like something designed in a studio, plopped on top of a piece of the past.

When I speak of history I am not speaking of great historical events -- I am speaking of how spaces have been used over the years and whether they ought to be forgotten, remembered or, at the very least referred to.

When I came to New York in 1980 the area which the High Line now encompasses, was an active and critical place for gay men to meet, socialize and, yes, have sex. In once sense, it was a hang out, in another it was incubator for free thought, sensuality, creativity, design . . . all the things that make New York so vital today.

When designing the High Line, was there no way for the designers to refer to this amazing dynamism from which their project sprouted? At battery park there is a fence displaying the poems of Walt Whitman, another person who has defined the essence of New York City. Shouldn't the High Line's design -- any urban design, really -- at least tell of a story? Or do we just want more coats of thick, beautiful, glossy paint? For that is what the High Line gives us.

I don't like the High Line's design. But who cares what I think? I'm mostly stuck in a bout of nostalgia; something that seems inevitable as we move on in life.

But what I find inexcusable is designing cities without giving at least a nod to history, to the the things that happened before, and how the past delivers us to the light of the present.

Ginger Edmiston said...

I'm not entirely persuaded by this piece. I've said this in other forums, but nobody (yet) is moving the James A Farley Post Office on 30th and 10th, or the Penn South complex on 9th all the way down to about 26th, or the Good shepherd soup kitchen on Ninth and 28th or the mostly low income PS 33 on Ninth and 27th. All a mere block away fromt he High Line. A narrow avenue of new condos does not a bourgeois neighborhood make. As another poster said, you get off at 30th, there's plenty of good old fashioned urban grime. So far the biggest casualty at that end of the park is the Trapeze school, which was lovely but not exactly old New York.

Michael D. said...

You sound like one of those righteous New Yorkers who bemoan the influx of tourists from New Jersey and long for the bad old days. Sure, some long time businesses were forced out, but should we really despair over the loss of a few auto repair shops? Destroying neighborhoods? Ridiculous. THERE WAS NOTHING THERE TO BEGIN WITH. La Lunchonette and Hector’s losing their customer base? Notice the article didn’t say anything about losing CUSTOMERS. Now, they just have more money. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the Disneyfication of New York either, but The High Line is about creating something bigger and better than what was there before. Omelets and eggs.

GaySwitchboard said...


"Proletariat"? "Dirty Poor People"? What a fucking asshole you are! Better get you shit together and control your snobbery for fuck's sake. Judging by your name and link to website one could almost figure out you're Mr. Wang. Who knows, maybe it's really you! Wouldn't surprise me, you're so way up your own ass that your rant is almost at the same level of Mr. Wang's habit of exploitation of employees in dark places!

Anonymous said...

Very nice piece. I think you should look into the lowline, they have already raised a ton of money and are moving forward as we speak. The lowline will do the same thing to the LES - infact in the proposal they state that nobody visits the area of the lowline that it is too desolate with no foot traffic, really? I spoke to people involved and they asked what I thought, I said it seems exciting, but I am sure I will not be able to enjoy it as it will push me out of my neighborhood. Followed by some akward silence. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

You know, with rare exception, most of us have come to New York from other places. So, I don't think this is what determines if one is a New Yorker.

To me, a New Yorker is someone who appreciates the city in large part because of its diversity. Who has a sense that "we are all in this together". Who acts accordingly in his/her daily life, i.e. being considerate when out and about, being sure to avoid actions which will impact someone else's day negatively. Who gives back to his/her community. Who knows and interacts with other New Yorkers from diverse socioeconomic groups, ages, sexual orientations, backgrounds, interests.

Someone who is here because it's "cool", who only hangs out with others just like themselves, who skims the surface of the shopping and the clubs and the restaurants but who doesn't note or genuinely appreciate ALL of the different types of people who make this city so great, who takes but doesn't bother to give is someone who will NEVER be a New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather worked as a security guard next to the Highline off 19th Ave. My father grew up in the top-floor apartment of a townhouse building on 22nd St. right next to the Highline. In those days, the neighborhood was full of longshoreman and their families. Even when we visited in the 80s and early 90s it seemed like a real neighborhood. The Highline is a fun park and like anything fun in Manhattan it has become a tourist destination, but I think the real villain for West Chelsea was the rezoning. The character of the neighborhood is destroyed when low-rise residences are bulldozed by those four ubiquitous words: Coming Soon, Luxury Housing. Too much luxury sucks the life out of a city.

Unknown said...

I've been reading the comments with much interest and I am thinking that there are really two very different issues going on. The High Line as a project is a creative reuse of a structure that honors what was there in lieu of it being torn down. By saving the High Line structure, a very useable, if at times crowded and popular public park and gathering space was created. New York needs parks and public spaces.

I do think this should be kept separate from what is perhaps driving much of the frustration which is the ungodly rents and prices one must pay to live in much of NYC. This is being driven in part by those who don't live there but keep an apartment for occasional use as well as the super wealthy. While I was born in NYC( 3rd generation in fact) and grew up there, I did leave after college. I don't see how I could afford to come back if I wanted to. This is the sad part. That the city has gotten so expensive that ordinary people have a hard if not impossible time affording it.

So maybe picking on the High Line is not the answer here as I'd say the gentrification would have happened anyway. The real issue is the city is being priced out of reach of the ordinary people who might wish to live there. But given that the actual real estate of Manhattan is quite small, it makes sense I suppose that not all who would wish to be there can do so and price is one way to filter out many. I do believe that this is what Rent Control at some point in the past was meant to do; provide a way for ordinary people to afford to live in NYC.

Jim said...

So basically you're a MinuteMan of your own little border, keeping the Unwanteds out? Just because they seem to be rich (and apparently happy) doesn't mean you're still not being a nativist jerk.

Walter Gregg said...

One general comment: you are criticizing something that it likely at the peak of its popularity. It is akin to visiting MoMA on a Saturday and writing a NYT Op-Ed about how the modern art sucked.

"Of course, I’d seen the architectural renderings and knew not to expect a wilderness. Still, the idea was enticing: a public park above the hubbub, a contemplative space where nature softens the city’s abrasiveness. Today it’s difficult to remember that initial feeling."

What did you see on the architectural renderings that you feel was not realized? What kind of contemplative space did you see on paper that was not delivered? It was pretty clear from the drawings and a general awareness of what the space entailed that this was going to be an inherently narrow and linear design. It may well be that you looked at the renderings and thought that no one was else was going to catch on to this new space. But that is not a promise that was broken by the design. The fact that you are able walk the path with eyes to the planting beds and the city works remarkably well to disintegrate the convoluted center. Speaking as someone (for context: a poor someone with a healthy sense of misanthropy) who visits the High Line very often and always for contemplative purposes: go early. Or go late. Or go in the rain. Or go at noon on the nicest day of the year with a better attitude.

"The designers had scrubbed the graffiti and tamed the wildflowers."

What were you expecting here exactly? Judged against any designed park I have visited, the planting design at the HL is wonderfully sophisticated and anything but tame. Preferring wild spaces to designed spaces perfectly valid. The idea that you were going to be provided a wild space on a very narrow man-made structure that was now going to be a visited on a a regular basis by the public was perhaps a flawed bit of wish casting on your part. Not to mention the fact that they kinda did give you what you ostensibly wanted, albeit in a designerly way. That said, I may be giving you too much credit; the shallowness of your opening paragraphs suggest a clear predisposition to hate and not a honest criticism of the work in front of you.

"Guards admonished me when my foot moved too close to a weed."

This hyperbole, meant to imply that there is an inherent malevolence behind the manner in which the park is maintained is a gross misrepresentation of the actual milieu. There is light presence of workers and security. And, yeah, don't step on the plants. But to deploy this phrase clearly establishes you as someone who is not interested in either exploring the nature of our changing urban environment or discussing the merits of the HL's design. Beyond that, it exposes you as a lazy critic.

What exactly is your wish here? Would it be that beautiful things not be built and be popular? Or just not in your neighborhood? Should it have been allowed to decay and eventually be torn down? I'm not clear on what your plan is. Fear not, eventually its popularity will wane and you will get your wish. Such is the nature of things.

Anthony Esposito said...

The Highline teflon is largely due to the fact that it was a) saving a structure from the past (in a green and creative way and b) was promoted by New Yorker-type celebrities (eg. Ed Norton, a nice guy with all the good intentions most of us had at the time). The Trojan Horse, so to speak, was the ensuing over-development of West Chelsea. But isn't that what had to happen. What needs to be done in the future with the Highline extension and other such (re)developments is to create an "economic landmark preservation status" for established small businesses and middle income residential buildings through long-term lease protection and even controls if necessary. It is the only way we can truly reverse the acceleration of a "Vanishing New York."

Anonymous said...

Look people, those of you who are disagreeing with the Op Ed. Bottom line: is there room for the working class in NYC? There used to be even as recently as the early 90s. When we look back at the 50s, yes, we always had "movie stars" and "broadway actors" and artists. But there was room for everyone. There was also not the inflated income that unfairly gets showered now on business types and cultural elites. Not that long ago, the head of a company didn't make THAT much more than a worker. A couple times over but not the 1000s of times of today. Bring NY back to the 99%. You people do the math of what a person makes a minimum wage in NYC and if they can live here. They should be able to. No one wants to work in a dirty office. Why should that work get paid an amount that doesn't even allow someone to rent their own studio apartment in Manhattan? If they work here they should be able to live here. It's not right. Somebody smash the system and let all classes live where whey want in NYC. -stef

Jeremiah Moss said...

"Is the shiny, enchanting High Line Park hypnotic enough to distract us from judging the city’s plan to install 50 times the number of current dwelling units in 14 or so blocks of the small West Chelsea district?" so wrote Choire Sicha in 2003.

the answer was YES.

read the whole prescient thing:

Anonymous said...

Since High Line is not going away think of how to learn something from this. Create lot more High Line like elevated walkways in depressed areas. The attraction? An elevated view of the life below AND no cars, no bikes, no skaters, no lights, no hawkers, no street artists, no panhandlers, and no riffraff! I enjoyed my 3 day stay in NYC near High Line.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, 9:39, you are (and the bitter set) are no better than us "entitield yuppies". Why are you entitled to live in Manhattan? You and your "99%" crew CAN afford to live in New York City. Again, Manhattan is only 5% of New York City's landmass. There is plenty of old school "character" in the outer-boroughs. You have the vast majority of New York City at the disposable of your "real" income so why not move there? 1% support Manhattan so 1% should be abole to turn Manhattan into whatever 1% wants. There is tons of crime, "real people" (gag), grafiti, dumpy bodegas, dumpy diners, poors, etc than will certainly remind you of your beloved old NY. Move there and stop moaning that Manhattan is New York City and you are entitled to live in this very tiny and rightully upscale and expensive part of the 300 square mile New York City.

Caleo said...

I'm glad The Op-Ed directed so much additional traffic to this blog, but as the comments go on, the negative, exclusivist tone becomes apparent.
Yes, New York has always been about change... blah, blah,blah,blah.
New York was also always an affordable city. A true city contains space for all social classes, and creates that genuine diversity that always made New York great. This isn't as much about the Highline as it is about what the Highline symbolizes. It is symbolic of the continual erosion of real neighborhoods and small businesses that employ real people who build their lives here.
Dubai on the Hudson is not an exaggeration at this point. Working class people cannot afford to live in Manhattan anymore. Young people who don't have wealthy parents cannot just pick up and move here.
I'm not all right with that, and I find it disturbing that so many people are o.k. with it, in fact celebrating this transformation, and then creating rationalizations for this wanton destruction. This is no longer about "change". It is willful and planned, and ultimately about making Manhattan unreachable for millions of hard working people who genuinely contribute to the city and it's culture. That is the bottom line, and all the cheerleaders need to address that directly.
A real city cannot just be tourists, students and multi-millionaires/billionaires.

Anonymous said...

As a Detroiter who has watched his own childhood community turn from a Blue Collar Polish-American enclave where the same teacher taught the parents and then their kids turn into a rundown ghetto I get the feelings. You are watching your neighborhood change into something other than what it was by economic forces. The nostalgic feelings are n aormal, human reaction to change outside of your control. You have my sympathies and respect for doing a good job of writing your feelings in your blog.

However let's call it like I see is shall we? The neighborhood was and kind of still is a dump. Run down businesses, abandoned train tracks, graffiti covered eye sore. Don't think I mistake the people and business owners with the buildings they occupied, I don't. Being working class or poor doesn't mean you are lower class just means you have less money.

The adding of the elevated park on the train tracks was and is a good thing for the area. Anyone claiming different is simply delusional. As the piece of land you have a special fondness for becomes more desirable the market forces will take over and transform it. New York, like any large city, is dynamic thing with various parts of it ebbing and flowing in any one person's lifetime. I urge you to gain some historical perspective outside of a few decades to help you cope with the transition. Consider trying to manage the change through your local government rather than the change managing you.

One more thing; The sweet, sweet irony of being published in the New Yorker, the must read of all you are railing against, shouldn't escape your notice. Keep on keeping on brother.

Primum Non Nocere said...

I lived in Manhattan (actually Chelsea) in the mid-late 80's and couldn't afford it even then. The High Line is hardly responsible for the rampant gentrification, unaffordability, arrogance and exclusivity that is New York. When I came back for a once-per-decade visit this past Spring, I was entranced by the new walking/biking path (extolled by David Byrne) along the West Side Highway and by the High Line. The views are not just of trophy architecture; there are glimpses of the Hudson and of antique lanes and industrial brick facades. Those decrying the "slow pace" of "the tourists" clearly don't get it. Racing along in the angular pace that typifies the harried New Yorker, texting and/or blabbing, they've never stopped to smell the blooms or gaze at the butterflies. The High Line is a stunningly landscaped botanical wonderland. How should one respond to that - by zooming by like a Central Park blader?

Tim said...

Former NYC has moved to Easton PA!

Filmatix said...


Well, it certainly looks like the handy link in the Times brought out some yunnie d-bags people who are straight bougie stroking that 1% phallus.

Handy markers include "THERE WAS NOTHING HERE TO BEGIN WITH" (re: Chelsea and the Meatpacking district), which is a laughable assertion. Another commenter actually used the word "poors"! What're you, having money fights with Mr. Burns at your dead-tech, sterile Bowery loft?

Just like so many of these fools stare blankly or get huffy when you say "EXCUSE ME" when they bump into you while they're walking and texting, a few of these NY Times reader redirecteds don't seem to read anything in context, or actually dig deeper. They are the walker-texter/sidewalk blockers of the Internets. They don't try to understand the perspective of a fair (and growing) amount of people, both native and transplant, who cannot fucking stand their repugnant selfishness and soullessness. Both are slowly hollowing out every shred of character in Manhattan.

Jeremiah, you're attempting to talk some sense to the same young urban narcissists that make living in our hometown such a bitter pill to swallow these days. The same straw man arguments ("Things always change!"; "You guys are just old bitter assholes!") etc. Go friggin' comment on Yelp if you don't have anything intelligent to add.

John K said...

Brilliant, Jeremiah, thank you, and props for getting the New York Times, which is utterly infatuated with and enamored of the ultra-rich, to publish it!

Unknown said...

Good op-ed on the High Line and how it is destroying the neighborhoods it runs through. I'll agree, to an extent. Yes, it has become a tourist trap that is yet another one of my no-go zones unless I have a random weekday off (the million dollar question is, how do we stop tourists from clogging the streets and everything else they lay their feet on? Answer: we can't - that is inevitable. Conclusion - NYC can't have nice things, because people will want to come/see/touch). Yes, those new "companion" buildings are ugly. Yes, "the park" (I hesitate to refer to it as a real park - it is more of a runway) drives prices up - but if you put anything nice in a neighborhood that is not-so-nice, it has the potential to drive prices up. As for the Meatpacking District, it was ruined long before the High Line came around - blame that on Pastis/Sex and the City. Yes, Bloomberg has continued to ruin the city. What can we do about that? Not much, I'm afraid, except NEVER AGAIN elect a businessman to do a politician's job (such as it is). His goal is and always will be PROFIT. Like a true businessman, that's all he sees. To be fair, he is doing an excellent job in that respect. What is truly unfortunate is that Bloomie, like Giuliani before him, has created a city in which the rich thrive, and most people with money are convinced that democrats or anyone forward-thinking will take their money clean out of their pockets. They vote accordingly, and the cycle continues.

Claribel said...

"The High Line carries an extended metaphor that cities can thrive once again." Kenneth Casper, this isn't the blight of the '70s that the High Line suddenly revitalized, this was a mix of lower, working, upper middle and creative classes, and it's called economic and cultural diversity. Other commenters have noted that gentrification was already there. The High Line put it in overdrive. The death of an Urban Renaissance is what you get when Manhattan neighborhoods continue to lose their diversity in favor of a monolithic wealthy class who don't realize how boring they really are because they are surrounded by the same boring people who affirm their boring gated community lifestyle. Affluent neighborhoods more often distinguish themselves by what they consume and the premium they pay, not by what they contribute in service that is of interest or benefit to society as a whole. The Op-Ed furthers the still debatable question as to whether or not the High Line actually benefits New Yorkers or just contributes to the fleecing of tourists while enriching property owners along its path.

"Without the success of pioneering initiatives like the High Line there is the Urban Renaissance is dead. Cities and neighborhoods must change in physical ways if they are to survive and thrive." Your ersatz Urban Renaissance is materialistically driven. There's no cultural rebirth going on here unless your definition is in tourist and real estate dollars only. And mega chain stores in the neighborhood such as the Container Store and Whole Foods contribute to a Suburban--not an Urban--Renaissance.

laura said...

tourism can be a cheesy industry. nothing wrong w/ going to a musuem or park or an attraction etc. its what comes LATER that is the horror. the souvenior stands, the food stands, then the chain stores for the passerbys, the garbage, the noise. i dont think high line was a bad idea. as everyone IS welcome, & its free! the rest of what i am reading is sad. somehow i liked the old days. people just didnt travel as a thing to do. airline tickets were expensive. you traveled that way if you wanted culture, or you were a college student & saved your cash. (or hitchhiked). people also traveled by greyhound to visit relatives, & yes to go to the touristy areas of NYC. they werent interested in neigborhoods. travel wasnt that big of an "industry" as now. cheap airfares that started this. new york is losing its sophication, as well as its uniqueness.

Ed said...

I'm actually glad to see comments here supporting the hypergentrification of the center of New York, because they are (probably inadvertently) revealing. You can really see how the destruction of bohemian New York was tied to the overall agenda of centralizing wealth and power into the hands of a small class, who are now using this city as one of the enclaves from where they lord it over the peasantry.

Anyway, I got a look at some jobs data the other day, and it appears the only sector where the city economy has generated enough jobs to keep pace with population growth between 2002 and 2012 is in leisure/ hospitality. Retail generated alot of jobs, just not enough to keep pace with population growth. In most other sectors -particularly finance!- the situation is about the same or even a lower number of jobs in 2012 than in 2012. So basically in economic terms, what you can see from just walking around is true, the city is turning into a sort of high-class resort. I don't think you can make this work with a city of this size, even the southern parts of Manhattan have a population greater than a million. And culturally its a disaster, high end resorts may import good performers but don't generate much in the way of original culture.

laura said...

i saw this article in the new york times. not one reader commented. why is that?

laura said...

i am still waiting. waiting for someone, it only takes one. someone to move else where, close to new york, if possible. (or w/in new york). that someone or someone's can start something new. if it has started, it has not reported on this blog. maybe they have their own blog, they are keeping it a secret, they want privacy. or @least a few years to be left alone. i understand of you have a rent stabilzed apt, or own a place, your job is there. sometimes things get out of control, you have to go! (if you can). we moved in brookyn several times because of the new neighbors. now you all have neighbors by the millions, even those who dont live there. this is the way the world works, not everyone wants to be w/everyone. its ovious by all these comments, you cant stand the vibe, you cant even look or listen to the people. this is new york? think twice.

Anonymous said...

well, this is anonymous again replying to anonymous who said i was bitter.. i DO live in the outer outer outer borough on the edge of flushing queens and have since moving here in the early 00s. before that i lived in a working class town and before that in one of the poorest counties in the U.S.A. where i grew up. i'm one of those folks who really did want to move to ny against all odds and barely did. my family did not go to college and barely squeak by on lower working class jobs in a tiny town on the border. you are misinterpreting what those of us are saying about the 99percent and Manhattan - it's about equality and fairness we are talking about here. it's not even about if manhattan or brooklyn or parts of queens are cool. it's about the utter inanity that someone could work 40 hours a week in this city and not be able to afford to live her, just because they might want to - not because Manhattan is the coolest of all. you are coming at this from a reverse sort of classism - i am not entitled at all - i cannot afford hardly at all to live in the area that i do in queens - but i was going to not be very happy in the small town in the south because of my lifestyle and views (and i'm again, coming from a lower working class, non college educated family) - it was nothing about being cool - it was about survival - people forget that for those of use who are gay or feminist or have interest in the arts or dress differently and are not wealthy or have any type of trust fund whatsoever, that moving to a bigger city is the only way to go. i am actually from a family like archie bunker but with even less money and while i don' think it's amusing, my friends have pointed out and i can't help but notice that, that is the only area i can afford to live - archie bunker apparently lived in flushing queens - so i move away from my small town and the farthest i can go is another similar space supposedly. but please anon - look past what you think is bitterness - that is not where i'm coming from at all. i mean people who clean goldman sach's buildings and only make enough to live in a bedroom very far away from the basic regional area of NYC. that's just not right. if you work 40 hours you should be able to rent your own apartment here without an hour commute like i have every day. there's a much bigger pix than what you and others surface-ly interpret as bitterness - you've got to step back further and think about this more deeply from all i've said here. thank you for your thougtfulness on important class issues in nyc, which, have burst open with this topic on the high line. and for good reason. thanks JVY for opening the conversation further.

EFB said...

I just read this in the NY Times. Sad that I agree with every word you wrote. It's not just the Highline either. It really does seem to be most of Manhattan. I can barely stand what's become of Manhattan.

It's not a city for the residents anymore. But in some ways we only have ourselves to blame after voting in Bloomberg for an unprecendented third term. What a joke.

Claribel said...

Alexander, I would love to see your so-called "proletariat" leave Manhattan entirely. How about everyone who watches your kids, waits your tables, repairs or shines your cars, tailors your clothes, does your laundry, housekeeps your homes, handles the administrative responsibilities that keep your asses on schedule, collects your garbage, etc, how about if we all left you in exile on your Fantasy Island so that you had to do all the work for yourself? Let's see how you'd fair on your own then, douche. Push us far enough and we've got the numbers, you don't.

You fancy yourself some Randian superhero entitled to an island all of your own, but the reality is you couldn't clip your own toenails without someone to help you. Ayn Rand wrote one-dimensional characters that you aspire to be and guess what? You've succeeded.

Unknown said...

RE: Mark Rosenthal's comment on a city not taking it's history (historical buildings, etc) into account when developing as a city should. I was in London in 2005 and found it remarkable that so many of those buildings still stand and are respected as valuable pieces of the story of a city. New York doesn't really have much of that anymore, eg, they tore down the original Penn Station all those years ago to put up the haven for crackheads we have now. I feel so bad for commuters who have to go through that monstrosity everyday.

SunnyD said...

Exactly. You hit the nail square on it's head!

Anonymous said...

"We still live in a free market and no one is entitled to live in a particular neighborhood simply because they grew up there. In a free market, you live where you can afford."

Markets are rarely free. The financial industry (without which there would be no gentrification in NYC) and the agricultural industry (through federally-back crop insurance) have cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. The people of these and other businesses, entrepreneurs all, can afford to live where they do because the rest of us subsidize them. Call it whatever you want, but there is nothing free about any of this.

Anonymous said...

That Matthew Gallaway rebuttal is myopic and ignorant. And the tag on that post "This post is abt how NYC needs to vanish actually". Why move to a city you dislike, Gallaway? Go fuck yourself all the wayback to Ohio, Matthew. Bitch.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i've read the Gallway piece a couple of times, and it just makes no sense to me. my piece is not about "other neighborhoods," it's about Chelsea around the High Line.

i'm also tired of being told that i want to go back to the 70s (i don't) and that i don't know what it's like not to have money (i know what it's like).

laura said...

jeremiah perhaps you should re read the post of greg walters, aug 22. he said go early or go late, or in the rain. you chose to go during high tourist time. im sure this can be a lovely place for solitude. as in peru, in the ancient sacred city of michu pichu (in cusco) one must get there by 5:30am. why? go later in there are hoards of tourists taking pictures via cell phone (of the pyramids) throwing candy wrappers on the ground (yes they leave garbage, what would the mayans say)? & screaming like lunatics! i am one of your fans, & i get most of what you say. but give things a break sometimes, youre throwing out the baby w/the bath water. i persoanlly would NOT want to see grafitti in any natural or beautifully traditional envirement. highline OR michu pichu, or the metropolitian, or the great churches. life is not always about ave C, or the bronx. try the highline again, mid week maybe october during sunset, get back to me. try to use it to your advantage.

Sam Hall Kaplan said...

Talk about going back to the 70s. Try the 50s when I worked on the high line, .. Check out my recent edited blog for : High Line past, present, future.:

Testimonials and awards not withstanding, I am wary of the cloying elitism of a crowing Bloomberg. Having followed the project’s promotions for the last decade and the community’s evolution for the last half century, a second opinion is in order.

To be sure, the embrace of the High Line by its high stepping sponsors and a middling media makes it hard to criticize. There can be no denying the feel good publicity it has generated. Whether labeled a park or a promenade, the finical design of the former freight train spur - sensitively landscaped with sustainable plantings and mod furnishings - has become a major tourist attraction and an even more considerable real estate asset.

The elevated tracks certainly have been transformed from when I worked there as a railway inspector on the night shift on the original B&O line and in the nearby NY Central RR Yards. That was some 57 years ago when cautious cabbies did not prowl the neighborhood for fares as they do now. To know Chelsea during those days was to walk its mean streets and work on the waterfront and in the rail yards, a bailing hook at the ready. Now I only have a groaning PC.

Given the neighborhood’s rough trade and its predators, I would not use “affection” to describe how I felt about the area then, flavored as it was by a bar scene catering to the S&M and transgender crowd that did not include the MBA types as it does now. “Wary” would be my more apt phrase, which actually prepared me well for my future work as a journalist and planner. It also made me appreciate the nuances of neighborhood change.

The passive open space of today’s High Line design banning bikes, dogs and discouraging the slatternly, is a not so subtle disinvite to the long time residents shoe boxed into the low rent housing projects and tenements that once lent Chelsea its gritty reputation. They were considered second-class citizens then, as they are now.

The High Line obviously was not designed for these persevering dwellers, or the neighborhood. If so, from my public planning perspective, the generous funds received from its well heeled patrons and the city should have been first used at the street level, to improve pedestrian safety and connectivity, contain the noxious traffic, and purchase a few of the area’s unsightly parking lots for active playgrounds, pocket parks and common gardens that have been on the community’s wish list for decades.

The pleasant seating and the arresting views aside, the High Line serves principally as the meandering manicured front lawn and garden for the neighborhood’s new residential and commercials developments, encouraged by a host of zoning changes and other concessions enacted by a real estate and building trade-friendly Bloomberg administration. To be sure, the project has provided needed construction jobs for the many, investment opportunities for the few, and lucrative contracts for the design team. The success of the design was coincidental.

... the High Line increasingly is being viewed as a mixed blessing. Coming to the fore recently and stirring strong protests is an ambitious $250 million plus expansion of the hugely successful upscale Chelsea Market, which attracts visitors from across the city as well as tourists. Its owners, who in the past have generously supported the High Line, want to add an office tower and hotel to the sprawling complex, and have pledged more funds for the park’s operation, a gesture seen as a classic pay for play ploy popular in Bloomberg’s New York. ..

laura said...

sam hall kaplan: high line is free, the long time working class residents can afford it. possibly some of those people can appreciate it w/out boom boxes, skates, bikes, spraypaint. the mothers can take the children there, as the wealthy parents do. it would be nice for infants, & very young children. are you saying its too classy? too intimidating? too refined? if they are not attracted to it, then they may be missing out. i understand the need for playgrounds as well, & see your point. but still, everyone IS welcome. that in itself is a positive thing.

Anonymous said...

I would have been much happier if the High Line were once again used for actual trains, passenger or freight.

- East Villager

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I would have been much happier if the High Line were once again used for actual trains, passenger or freight.

- East Villager

East Villager, thank you. You are soooooooo right! Trains, yes, trains, actual trains, not people, should walk the High Line.


Unknown said...

Wow. chain link fences in guelph look much cooler than these..

cerise said...

Does anyone else remember the "High Cash Clothes" hawkers? They would often appear in the "courtyards" of Brooklyn apartment houses, back in the 1940s. Would like to learn more about them: were they legal; did they really pay for clothes that were tossed from windows and/or fire escapes? I lived in 438 Ocean Parkway
and would hear them from my parents' bedroom in our 3 room apartment.

esquared™ said...

"The project exudes a "cool" image of feigned neglect, despite the troubling irony in this aesthetic. Commodifying ostensibly lower-class spaces for supposedly higher classes is both patronizing and divisive."

Jeremiah Moss said...

nice find, esquared. the tide is turning.

Gary said...

I'm a Manhattanite for over 30 yrs now. The High Line makes me feel sad - but if it was in my backyard, I know I would feel differently. Thankfully I am closer to Central Pk.