A few months ago, I was sitting in one of those over-crowded coffee shops in the village doing some
eavesdropping work, and I overheard one of these all too familiar exchanges about the High Line:
Guy: I’m thinking of taking her to the High Line.
Barista: The what?
Guy: You’ve never heard of it? It’s like this really cool park in Chelsea that they built upon these abandoned subway tracks; I mean, it’s so cool and a great place to go on a date, but it’s like super crowded with tourists all the time now. I can’t wait til they open up the second leg.
Barista: Sounds cool, I’ll have to check that out man
Ha! I thought to myself - first off, both of these guys suck (why else would you go to a coffee shop? to not judge students and freelancers?!) - who doesn’t know what the High Line is, and who thinks that they’re not one of those damned people causing traffic?
I love the High Line. I am not a resident of Chelsea, but I know people who used to live close to the park and not only hated it, but actually got priced out of their apartment because of the rising property values in Chelsea due in no small part to this urban development. They are just two of the many residents of Chelsea that Jeremiah Moss speaks of in his Times op-ed criticizing the neighborhood-altering affects of the project.
However, there’s also a lot to be said for the idea of the High Line, and let’s face it: creeping gentrification in any downtown neighborhood adjacent to the Meatpacking District can’t be solely blamed on - to quote a tourist I once overheard - “that high level park with the shops.” Chelsea has been happening and chic (read: expensive) for a very long time. I feel bad for the long-time residents who get priced out, but at the same time I’m sure many have benefited from the High Line.
There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to urban development, and frankly I don’t have the right to make grand pronouncements, but I read Matthew Gallaway’s response to Moss’ article and I think he presents an interesting perspective on this issue.
He writes regarding over-gentrification:
The problem is clearly not the High Line, but rather the effects of an unfettered system — at local and federal levels — that has allowed an arguably unprecedented concentration of wealth in our country, which (yes) makes it all but impossible for those without millions of dollars to afford to live (or at least buy) in those neighborhoods.
I agree that there needs to be a middle-ground between neighborhoods defined by either oligarchy or poverty, but I also don’t think that Moss’ article was saying NYC would be better if we reverted to the city of the 70’s.
Whether you enjoy the High Line or not, it’s a schlep and a pain now a days so you deal with it if you want to and you don’t if you don’t have to. That is, if you don’t have the sudden “misfortune” of living in Chelsea (just please don’t take my Chelsea Market away).