In Defense of a Boring Park

The High Line needs no bells and whistles.

Yesterday’s New York Times ran an op-ed from Sean Wilsey, a memoirist and editor, who criticizes the recently unveiled designs for Manhattan’s High Line park, the first section of which is to open later this year. Wilsey argues that the plans (by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro)—which largely maintain the local plants whose riotous overgrowth on an abandoned railway account for the park’s exotic industrial allure—are “middlebrow.” “I’d been hoping for a utopia,” he writes, and he suggests adding a snow-making machine, a marketplace for cobblers and food vendors, and a rollercoaster.

But does a public space like the High Line demand any of those things—anything, really, besides a path, some greenery, and a brief respite from city streets? Shouldn’t a park be allowed to be just a park, without too much novelty or high jinks? Last fall, during Open House New York’s annual Weekend (when little-seen sites across the city are opened to the public), I toured a few blocks of the High Line, just south of the Javits Center. Knee-high grasses shot up from around the aging iron tracks, where it was easy to lose your footing, and hardy weeds crept up the rusted trestle. In short, it was lovely, and it’s hard to imagine that, once restored and opened to the public, the High Line won’t create its own liveliness without a heavy-handed infusion of “local flavor.” The last thing New York needs, after all, is another theme park.

The High Line Design Video, below, shows animation of the design for Sections 1 and 2 of the new park. The video is from the Friends of the Highline Web site and was produced by Brooklyn Digital Foundry:

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