Cloisters, High Line Face Challenges to River Views

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Carolita Johnson / Flickr

The neighborhoods surrounding the Cloisters on Manhattan's West Side have the distinction in the city of being some of the few places where one can gaze at uninterrupted miles of actual nature, namely the cliffs of New Jersey's Palisades. Meanwhile, in the more developed parts of the West Side downtown, the High Line provides a welcome break from the looming forest of concrete. Now, both areas face challenges to those respites, and while the Cloisters is fighting for its scenery, the High Line's advocates can only bemoan its fate.

Up at the Cloisters, the New York Times reminds us that John D. Rockefeller not only donated the land for the museum, but bought acreage across the river in the Palisades just so the museum could have a view of the preserved cliffs. But LG Electronics wants to build its new corporate headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey, with 143-foot buildings that would rise several stories past the tree line and be clearly visible from the museum. It's already gotten Englewood to rezone the site to allow for the taller buildings, and the project is due to start later this year.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (which owns the Cloisters) hates the plan, and has banded with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Larry Rockefeller, as well as other local preservation groups, to try to get LG to agree to reduce the height of its buildings. LG is listening, it says, but "it’s too soon to say" whether a redesign would even be possible, LG vice-president John I. Taylor told the Record of Bergen County. It would be a very big change to a project scheduled to start next year.

Downtown, the fight focuses not on the views across the river but on the immediate surroundings of the southern section of the High Line, currently one of the more open-feeling sections of the park, which will soon be flanked by high-rises. Work is "set to begin as of January on a 175-foot, glass-walled office tower just to the east of the High Line at 437 W. 13th Street, and to the west, a developer has planned a 199-foot building between 13th and 14th Streets along the High Line," CBS New York reports.

"The southern end of the High Line will soon transform dramatically, as what are now some of the most open and exposed parts of the park will be surrounded on all sides by large new developments," according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's Off the Grid blog. The only thing left to do there is catch as many rays as possible on the High Line while you can, then start taking more walks on the Hudson River Greenway.