The High Line celebrates 15 years as a public park

June 13, 2024

All photos by Rowa Lee unless otherwise noted

Fifteen years have passed since the High Line opened to the public, transforming a crumbling rail line into an urban oasis. Since opening in June 2009, more than 75 million people have visited the elevated public park. Its construction has generated over $2 billion in private investment and economic activity, creating a booming neighborhood with new residential and cultural developments centered around the park. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the High Line will host new public art installations, 15 free special events through the summer and fall, and temporarily reopen the interim walkway at the Western Rail Yards for the first time since 2022. The Western Rail Yards segment, the last of the original High Line structure to be rehabilitated, offers stunning 360-degree views of the Hudson River and cityscape.

Stretching approximately one-third of a mile, the Western Rail Yards is the only portion of the High Line where its original plant life remains, a peek into the park’s past life. This week, five steel sculptures by artist Oliver Lee Jackson are being installed, complementing the walkway’s industrial feel.

The section will close in October for renovations and reopen next year with a new permanent walkway, seating, and lighting, allowing visitors to enjoy it after sunset. Existing plant life will be preserved, maintaining the unique natural landscape that inspired the garden designs for the rest of the High Line.

“Fifteen years since we opened the park, the High Line has become a crucial piece of New York City’s magic. We are so delighted to welcome New Yorkers and other visitors to experience special new spaces, events and celebrations to mark this milestone,” Alan van Capelle, executive director of the High Line, said.

“From feeling the wild landscape of the Western Rail Yards, to celebrating our birthday at one of New York City’s biggest and most raucous salsa parties, there is something special awaiting everyone on the High Line this summer.”

Photo by Rowa Lee, Courtesy of the High Line

Starting this month, visitors can learn about the High Line’s history and garden designs through a park-wide exhibition. 45 detailed plaques have been installed to highlight the park’s “wild by design” landscape and the approach of High Line garden designer Piet Oudolf.

Additionally, illustrated panels by New York-based artist Naomi Otsu in the park’s 14th Street Passage detail the park’s past, show its evolution, and encourage visitors to envision its future.

On Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the High Line will host “¡Arriba!,” the park’s longest-running public program, for a fun night of dancing and music. Curated by renowned NYC DJ Mickey Perez, the event features free salsa lessons, DJ sets, and live music. Dancers of all skill levels are encouraged to join in. You can RSVP for the event here.

Other upcoming events include a family art program on June 15 and 22, inviting families to read books, create art, and reflect on the park, seated conversations on June 18 and September 18 with members of the park’s horticulture team, and a Pride event on June 20 where members of the LGBTQIA+ community share personal stories that intertwine with the park’s history.

All photos © Jonathan Flaum. Photo credit: High Line Color 1. June 2005.

After plans to demolish the abandoned train tracks were announced in the late 1990s, Joshua David and Robert Hammond started Friends of the High Line, a grassroots organization dedicated to saving the structure and repurposing it into a park. Since the first phase opened in 2009, the High Line has become one of New York City’s most visited attractions, drawing in 5 million visitors each year.


All photos by Rowa Lee unless otherwise noted

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