How successful is New York’s High Line?


This railroad-turned-garden in NYC is getting lots of attention these days, including by PBS's "Need to Know" in an episode titled "The Thin Green Line: Investing in Urban Parks".

Sounds great and I'm dying to see it in person.  But the results may not be a slam-dunk, after all, according to Harvard's Peter del Tredici.  In his talk to the landscape architects the other day he let it slip that the High Line is THE most expensive park to maintain in the whole NYC system.  Makes ya wonder why.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.


  1. I adore the Highline. That’s too bad that it’s so expensive to maintain, though. But it’s such a lovely park – it manages to feel very urban and city-bound, yet at the same time feels like an escape from the city below. I love visiting it whenever I’m in NYC.

  2. New York is an expensive city to inhabit and visit. Nothing about it is inexpensive. It is only normal, therefore, that maintenance and care of an unusual garden should come with a high price Tag. Peter del Tredici’s opinion about the High Line garden needs to be taken in context. Many gardens around the world are expensive to maintain. Beauty is not cheap!

  3. It’s a great example of high design: modern, unique custom elements,combined and recombined in novel ways.

    It’s an elevated container garden, a rooftop garden.

    Doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s expensive. It’s also probably the most expensive per square foot ever developed.

  4. I guess you have to factor the situation into that cost though. I mean if they didn’t make a park out of it they’d probably need to expend cash on it anyway to prevent it falling into disrepair and subsiding and so forth wouldn’t they? I wonder if that is included in the extra cost?

  5. It almost reminds me of a boardwalk. I’m not a fan of the modern style though. The railline must date back to the art deco period. Could they not have created a garden in that aesthetic? The iron support structure is beautiful though!

  6. What a wonderful use of space in a city! Anything that encourages people to walk and provides a safe, beautiful way to do so, should be encouraged. I imagine some of the benefits to New Yorkers are priceless, really. Why doesn’t the city do a fund-raising festival annually in the park? It would be a wonderful site to do so.

  7. I visited the Highline in April, when the perennials were half up. It’s an amazing place, wonderful design. I adore it!

  8. The Highline is an extraordinary place. You can feel a special energy there, whether it is emanating from the visitors, the landscape, the views, the plantings or whatever, I don’t know, but the place has an amazing vibe and it seems to be increasing over time with each visit I have made. If that’s expensive to have, then perhaps we need to make all of our parks & public spaces more expensive.

  9. I try to get over there every time I am in NYC. Fantastic experience every time. It stands out in the garden experience because of its place and the relationship to the natural landscape. Have you ever walked beside an abandoned set of tracks? It feels like it but in a totally cool way!

  10. I would like to visit any part of New York. I think the city has everything that a person would want to do and eat. I would think that everything there cost alot. I hope that it does not cost so much that they will not be able to keep it up the way it should be kept.

  11. I’m a big fan of the High Line and read about it’s inception for 5 years while I lived away from NY, my home town. I finally made my way there, and I think it’s a really successful public space. Every function, be it benches, walkways, areas for eating was in use. The plant palette is interesting, and my husband and I (both employed in horticulture) were stumped by some of the plants included. I’m not the least bit surprised it’s expensive to maintain. I’m curious to see how the plant choices evolve to meet challenges of the space, and how that container in the sky meets the needs of the plants over time.
    I work at a garden center and got at least 3 calls before fashion week that were inquiries for “like, grasses? sort of wild looking y’know? I need 180 linear feet of them to line a runway…”. because that’s what happens when you give all the stylists a space like that to have lunch on. I’m poking fun, but really, the space has infiltrated the way people view things, and opened their eyes to different sources of inspiration.

  12. Other than the fact that I always have a good time in NYC, this place was one of the main reasons I went there this summer. It is perhaps one of the most unique outdoor spaces I have ever experienced. Yes I am sure it is expensive, but worth every penny.

  13. I was back in the NYC area visiting family a few weeks ago and The Highline was one of the places I wanted to check out but I just didn’t have time. Everything I have read and seen of it makes me think it is well worth the money.

  14. Go and see it and you will think that at whatever price it was justified.
    I live in CT and I’ve been to The High line twice this year. It’s a fantastic place which seems to be the key to reviving an area of NYC that needed an anchor point.
    It’s unique, being that it’s linear and elevated, giving views that you can’t get anywhere else in the city plus a breathey stroll high above the hubbub of NYC.
    It may be high maintenance but it draws a crazy amount of people – so much so that they make it one-way when crowds get too big.
    There have always been people of all ages and nationalities walking, sitting, strolling, taking it in when I’ve been there which indicates that it’s a great resource for the city.
    I was first there this spring and then again recently with my sister who was visiting from the UK, “Oh,” she said “yes, The High Line, I read about that in The Daily Telegraph.”
    To me it’s got a very Euro/Dutch vibe, the design is awesome yet muted. Phase II (the second half mile or so was coming along nicely when I was there last.)
    It’s quite delightful. One of my favorite spots in the city. You should go. (and be sure to have a bier in the BierGarten under the Gansevoort St end).

  15. I liked it, certainly a nice oasis from the bustle of the specific neighborhood it is in… Phew. And I really like that they used all native plantage (this is a new word I have made up, lets roll with it?) and foliage.

  16. I thought I read somewhere that more than half of the expense for maintaining it is covered by the Friends of High Line, the conservancy that raised the funds to create it in the first place…is that true, do you know?

  17. Early this spring I walked through public park spaces from Battery Park, the plantings along the river and Battery Park City, The High Line, Madison Square Park and Bryant Park. All of these spaces are so important to the quality of life in the city, and I’m sure all of them are expensive to maintain. Chris in Flatbush reminds us that the High Line is essentially a container garden; maybe it is keeping it watered that is so expensive? Lynden B. Miller who is responsible for planning the renovation of Madison Square Park (and many other public plantings) helped in the founding of the Madison Square Park Conservancy that raises money for maintenance of the park as well as special events. Maybe that kind of organization will be required for other public spaces.

  18. I bet if you figured the cost per person in relation to square foot of park space in NYC, it wouldn’t be any higher than cost spent on parks in another city. There are waaaaaay more people in NYC and far less space per person and therefore parks and open space are highly prized, highly used and in need of some really high maintenance dollars.

    It’s maintained by Friends of the High Line. There are a lot of people who really thought it was worth their personal dollar to have a beautiful public space. Just proving how important their open spaces are to them. NYC has several park groups that support their parks. What, did you think Central Park was natural too?

  19. Why don’t they charge everyone a dollar that goes to look at it? 3 million people equals a lot of dough! I pay to go to other gardens.

  20. No way should they charge! Public space should be free to the public! Sure we pay to see other gardens, but NY’ers need these spaces to retreat to. If all gardens had an admission fee, so many people wouldn’t have the privilege of seeing them, being inspired and possibly becoming gardeners themselves. How many city kids will look back on their first visit here and think of it as their first exposure to curiosity about plants, and special places where people foster nature in an urban setting? City people don’t have the luxury of backyards, country and open space, they need these spaces to retain their sanity.

  21. I love the High Line–it is captivating as an idea and in person. The only advice I can give is get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Last summer, I walked along Paris’ version, which predates ours here, the “Promenade Plantee. The Plantee, though, doesn’t have that feeling of openness and wildness you get, however fleetingly, at the High Line. Also predating the High Line is the very delightful “Bridge of Flowers” in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, installed by civic-minded ladies to hide a disused rail bridge that had become an eyesore. It’s nothing citified or overly sophisticated, but it is lovingly done, and a sentimental fave of mine.

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