The end of The High Line as seen from street level (Photo Courtesy Wired NY)

 

If you’re fed up with partisan bickering and political dysfunction in Washington, the gratifying, lavishly-illustrated book High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky, just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, might temper your burgeoning cynicism. The book is a lesson in what can be accomplished in the face of overwhelming skepticism and bureaucracy.

The new High Line park in New York City deserves to be celebrated not only for its innovative design, but also for the grass-roots collaboration that made the improbable idea of converting a derelict elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side into a beautiful green space a reality.

 

(Photo Courtesy Urban Design Review)

 

The High Line is one of the most important public projects in New York City in decades, and the ultimate example of how fruitful a cross-pollination among various disciplines can be. The book’s authors, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, had no prior experience in planning and development (one journalist referred to them as “a pair of nobodies”), but this didn’t stop them from collaborating with artists, elected officials, neighbors, local business owners, horticulturists, and landscape architects to realize their vision.

This is a story about two ordinary guys taking on a behemoth bureaucracy and actually winning.”I didn’t understand the complexity of what we were getting into,” Hammond says in the book. “We would need to become versed in urban planning, architecture, and City politics, raise millions of dollars, and give years of our lives to the High Line.”

 

Phase 2 of the High Line in 2011 (Photo by Iwan Baan Courtesy Friends of the High Line)

 

This industrial structure has a fascinating history. The