Friday, August 10, 2012

Our Potential Park Somewhat in the Sky

We have a ways to go, but we're making progress!

Architecture, NEW YORK, Transit, Urban Exploration — July 25, 2012 10:29 am

Exploring QueensWay, An Abandoned High Line in Queens

What may become the city’s next elevated, 3.5-mile long pedestrian and bike path, now named the QueensWay, is still very much just another ghost of the New York’s past. Yet a short walk down a portion of it in its current, rawest state reveals that it can be just as enchanting as even the city’s most delicately planned parks. Until QueensWay, the surroundings of these tracks are at once history, nature, vandalism, and working- and middle-class single-family homes. Told you New York had it all.
The tracks of the former Rockaway Beach branch of the LIRR (or, less formally, the White Pot Junction line) tear down the center of Queens—starting at Rego Park going toward Howard Beach—and then hang east on trestles toward the Rockaways. It was possible, then, for some residents of Queens to get to Penn Station in half an hour, give or take. As nice (an currently unimaginable) as it was, the point was not convenience to Midtown Manhattan, but the beach, another half hour going the other direction. In a recent Queens Gazette column, Gregory Bresiger breaks down what was apparently quite a scenic route:
By 1881, it linked up with the LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue branch at Woodhaven. Those going on to the Rockaways transferred at Ozone Park. Just a half mile or so beyond Ozone Park, the service continued to Rockaway Park or on to the LIRR’s other branch on the peninsula, which terminated at Far Rockaway.
Until the line fell to infrastructural and financial burden about fifty years ago, the independently operated line carried passengers from central and southern Queens to and from Ozone Park. Part of the line was absorbed as part of the A train in 1956 and is now the southern terminus of the potential QueensWay. (Apparently, the Ozone Park stop can still be seen from Lefferts Boulevard just past the 102nd Street stop.) Another section lives on as a part of the LIRR’s Rockaway Beach branch, originally going from Glendale to Rockaway Park.
The tracks, mostly quite visible, never quite left the radar of those who either grew up or around them, or in homes that were constructed right next to them after the line was abandoned. And now it’s slated to be one of innumerable projects around the world whose hopes of turning old infrastructure into functional, well-designed public space had been realized thanks in part to the completion of the High Line. The Trust for Public Landhas announced a partnership with Friends of the QueensWay and the City of New York—who now own the trestles and land underneath the—to produce a feasibility study, cost estimates, and programming to solicit community input. Until then, this abandoned New York City asset can still be viewed in its most exciting state—one that reflects the city’s unrelenting eye for unbridled, trash-into-treasure potential.
If you haven’t seen the third section of the High Line in its raw state, check it out before it’s turned into a park.

It's Officially an Epidemic!

What Can We Say? It's The Hottest Trend In Public Spaces!

Everybody Wants a High Line

With the success of the High Line park in New York City, it seems almost every city now wants one. Toronto has long been batting around ideas for its Gardiner expressway, while Los Angeles is trying to dream up the money for new parks to cap old freeways. Philadelphia is moving forward with reusing parts of its old rail infrastructure at the Reading Viaduct, while Chicago has already created plans for its own High Line: the Bloomingdale Trail. Now, London wants to get in on the game, with the launch of a new international design competition to create some ideas for an British High Line.
Sponsored by the The Landscape Institute, Garden Museum, and the Mayor of London, A High Line for London: Green Infrastructure ideas competition for a new London landscape is clearly inspired by NYC’s recent success story, which they argue “transcended the commonly-accepted role of urban parks to become one of the world’s most popular landmark.”
Still, they say they don’t want to copy the High Line exactly: “The judges are looking for proposals which similarly engage communities with green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the network of open and green spaces, including features like green roofs, designed and managed to provide benefits such as flood management, urban cooling, green transport links and ecological connectivity – an approach which can have a huge and exciting impact on the way in which we live in the capital.”
Judges include High Line founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond; landscape architects Kim Wilkie and Johanna Gibbons; Matthew Pencharz, Environment Advisor to the Mayor of London; and Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain.
The winning team will get £2,500 and the runner-up £500 as prize money. The finalists will also be displayed in the Garden Museum.
Also, read more about the “real” High Line effect in a recent op-ed in The Huffington Post by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) president, Charles Birnbaum, FASLA. Birnbaum says that instead of trying to copy the High Line in an effort to spur economic development and boost tourism, cities should understand that a unique set of circumstances led to the High Line in Chelsea. “In fact, the ‘High Line effect’ should be viewed more broadly as a holistic approach to urban design that suggests how to transform existing urban landscapes to meet contemporary needs. The High Line was almost magically reawakened by a team of landscape architects, architects, horticulturalists, engineers and others, led by James Corner Field Operations. What really happened there is, first and foremost, a triumph of historic preservation and design.”
Image credit: High Line. 2010 ASLA Professional General Design Award / copyright Iwan Baan.