It's High Time for the High Line

After a decade of tenacious advocacy, planning and construction, an abandoned elevated rail line on Manhattan's West Side will reopen as a landscaped public park. 

Celebrity chef Mario Batali and designer Diane von Furstenberg helped Mayor Michael Bloomberg and High Line park founders unveil the first half-mile section today. It opens to the public tomorrow. City officials are expecting such a huge crowd for the long-awaited opening that they're ready to turn people away while letting in others on a first-come, first-served basis, according to The New York Post.

No more than 1,700 people will be allowed in the park at a time to ensure safety, and the parks department plans to slap plastic wrist bracelets on visitors to keep track, the paper reported. Once construction is finished, however, a militant counting-heads policy likely won't be necessary.

Dazzled by the park's magnificence, stunning views and compelling story, a slew of celebrities celebrated the High Line's opening over champagne and shrimp at a preview party last week, the Post reported. Jerry Seinfeld, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Barbara Walters were among the luminaries who showed up to wine and dine and watch the sun set over New York Harbor from their perch 30 feet above the street.

The High Line, built in the 1930s to carry freight, stretches 1.5 miles, running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District all the way up to 34th Street along Manhattan's West Side. The trestle runs through blocks and buildings, offering a unique insider view of New York City and serving as a reminder of its manufacturing roots.  

The Giuliani administration slated the industrial icon for demolition, but Bloomberg threw his political weight behind saving the rail line and converting it into a park. The High Line's emergence has been a boon for real estate in the area, triggering about $900 million in new development, according to the Post

"Rather than destroying this valuable piece of our history, we have recycled it into an innovative and exciting park that will provide more outdoor space for our citizens and create jobs and economic benefits for our City,” Bloomberg said. “Ten years ago, detractors thought the High Line was an eyesore. Thankfully, there were a handful of people who looked at the High Line and saw also an extraordinary gift to our city’s future. Today, we will unwrap that gift."

The park will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dogs will not be allowed for now because the new plantings are fragile.

Friends of the High Line is throwing an Opening Summer Benefit, which includes the First Party on the High Line, on June 15. Dinner tickets are $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000; tables start at $15,000. Proceeds will go toward hiring gardeners and staff to maintain the park. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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