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The High Line: It Brings Good Things to Life

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The Life and Times of the High Line


1930s
Construction begins on the High Line elevated railway; trains deliver freight to local warehouses until 1980.

1980s
West Chelsea becomes notorious as a postindustrial wasteland, populated by body shops, truck yards, and transvestite prostitutes.

1984
Transportation consultant Peter Obletz buys the abandoned High Line for $10—allowing Conrail to avoid $5 million in demolition costs. The deal is later nullified.

1987
Dia Art Foundation moves to a warehouse in West Chelsea—and sparks an art-world migration that transforms the neighborhood.

1999
Chelsea residents Joshua David, left, and Robert Hammond meet at a community-board meeting and start Friends of the High Line.

2001
In his last days as mayor, Giuliani puts the demolition of the High Line in motion—but the plan is halted by a lawsuit brought by Friends of the High Line. (They lose the case but win the war—by converting Bloomberg to their cause.)

2001
After reading a story about the High Line in The New Yorker, Edward Norton contacts Friends of the High Line, and becomes a public face for the group.


2003
Friends of the High Line hold an open call for ideas; one of the winning entries is a 22-block-long swimming pool.

2006
Construction begins on the first phase of the High Line park—the railbed, pictured here in a Joel Sternfeld photo, is stripped to make way for a new landscape.

2007
The High Line Festival debuts on May 9, curated by David Bowie and featuring acts from Air to Ricky Gervais at venues as far-flung as Radio City Music Hall.


2008
The first phase of the High Line park is projected to open, stretching from Gansevoort to 20th. Meanwhile, the north leg of the High Line still faces possible demolition, pending the development of the Hudson Rail Yards.


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