The Over-Stuffed High Line, Ten Years On

To blame the High Line for overgentrification of WChelsea is like saying the federal deficit is caused by arts funding…

— Matthew Gallaway (@matthewgallaway) August 22, 2012

Today’s Times brings one of our old favorites, Jeremiah Moss, on the radical changes in West Chelsea in the age of the High Line. The High Line, only open since summer of 2009, he writes, is overcrowded (uh, yes!) and “quickly became a tool for the Bloomberg administration’s creation of a new, upscale, corporatized stretch along the West Side.” He predicts a chain-mall future for the ground level of West Chelsea. Well, as someone warned, nine years ago now, “landlords and developers may be allowed to spend the next decade in a shock-and-awe campaign on the West Chelsea district.” (The zoning of the High Line included the ability to “install 50 times the number of current dwelling units in 14 or so blocks,” creating “a forbidding wall along 10th Avenue.”) And here we are, with too much rich goodness to digest. The pact that Friends of the High Line made with the City — even while disassociating themselves from the dirty political zoning efforts — to get the park made created an incredibly speedy transformation that’s now out of everyone’s hands. What happens next is up to demand, market rents and whoever finds the best way to service both finicky tourists and rich residents. And here: a counterpoint, sort of, which addresses the idea of affordable housing, which is completely disregarded by the Bloomberg administration, no matter what its goals actually are, in actual matters of zoning and development.