Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

The Highline is an old, elevated rail line that runs for a mile and a half right through Manhattan. And it was originally a freight line that ran down 10th Ave. And it became known as “Death Avenue” because so many people were run over by the trains that the railroad hired a guy on horseback to run in front, and he became known as the “West Side Cowboy.” But even with a cowboy, about one person a month was killed and run over. So they elevated it. They built it 30 ft. in the air, right through the middle of the city. But with the rise of interstate trucking, it was used less and less. And by 1980, the last train rode. It was a train loaded with frozen turkeys — they say, at Thanksgiving — from the meatpacking district. And then it was abandoned. And I live in the neighborhood, and I first read about it in the New York Times, in an article that said it was going to be demolished. And I assumed someone was working to preserve it or save it and I could volunteer, but I realized no one was doing anything. I went to my first community board meeting — which I’d never been to one before — and sat next to another guy named Joshua David, who’s a travel writer. And at the end of the meeting, we realized we were the only two people that were sort of interested in the project; most people wanted to tear it down. So we exchanged business cards, and we kept calling each other and decided to start this organization, Friends of the High Line. And the goal at first was just saving it from demolition, but then we also wanted to figure out what we could do with it. And what first attracted me, or interested me, was this view from the street — which is this steel structure, sort of rusty, this industrial relic. But when I went up on top, it was a mile and a half of wildflowers running right through the middle of Manhattan with views of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River. And that’s really where we started, the idea coalesced around, let’s make this a park, and let’s have it be sort of inspired by this wildscape. At the time, there was a lot of opposition. Mayor Giuliani wanted to tear it down. I’m going to fast-forward through a lot of lawsuits and a lot of community engagement. Mayor Bloomberg came in office, he was very supportive, but we still had to make the economic case. This was after 9/11; the city was in tough times. So we commissioned an economic feasibility study to try to make the case. And it turns out, we got those numbers wrong. We thought it would cost 100 million dollars to build. So far it’s cost about 150 million. And the main case was, this is going to make good economic sense for the city. So we said over a 20-year time period, the value to the city in increased property values and increased taxes would be about 250 million. That was enough. It really got the city behind it. It turns out we were wrong on that. Now people estimate it’s created about a half a billion dollars, or will create about a half a billion dollars, in tax revenues for the city. We did a design competition, selected a design team. We worked with them to really create a design that was inspired by that wildscape. There’s three sections. We opened the fist section in 2009. It’s been successful beyond our dreams. Last year we had about two million people, which is about 10 times what we ever estimated. This is one of my favorite features in section one. It’s this amphitheater right over 10th Ave. And the first section ends at 20th St. right now. The other thing, it’s generated, obviously, a lot of economic value; it’s also inspired, I think, a lot of great architecture. There’s a point, you can stand here and see buildings by Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Neil Denari. And the Whitney is moving downtown and is building their new museum right at the base of the High Line. And this has been designed by Renzo Piano. And they’re going to break ground in May. And we’ve already started construction on section two. This is one of my favorite features, this flyover where you’re eight feet off the surface of the High Line, running through a canopy of trees. The High Line used to be covered in billboards, and so we’ve taken a playful take where, instead of framing advertisements, it’s going to frame people in views of the city. This was just installed last month. And then the last section was going to go around the rail yards, which is the largest undeveloped site in Manhattan. And the city has planned — for better or for worse — 12 million square-feet of development that the High Line is going to ring around. But what really, I think, makes the High Line special is the people. And honestly, even though I love the designs that we were building, I was always frightened that I wouldn’t really love it, because I fell in love with that wildscape — and how could you recreate that magic? But what I found is it’s in the people and how they use it that, to me, makes it so special. Just one quick example is I realized right after we opened that there were all these people holding hands on the High Line. And I realized New Yorkers don’t hold hands; we just don’t do that outside. But you see that happening on the High Line, and I think that’s the power that public space can have to transform how people experience their city and interact with each other. Thanks. (Applause)

84 thoughts on “Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

  1. Good talk…

  2. Will it happen ???

    It's inevitable and we cant keep standing still

  3. 3:50
    College Humor offices !

  4. What the hell is in Libya?

  5. I was there with my school. i'm 17. It's beautiful there. Fantastic stretch of park :3

  6. He is a TED speaking guest because of this?

    Life is truly unfair.

  7. I seen this on RocketBoom NYC a while back, its a fantastic project, hope this inspires a lot more people to think green when it comes to architecture and city life. Great Idea!

  8. better than destroying it

  9. @cruiscinlan if it was a privilege, yes. must be something done with respect and dedication

  10. Wow, that was really cool.
    I had no idea that was going on.

  11. I never knew about this, it's pretty awesome.
    Good job at being able to make a park!!

  12. Its a pity that is talk is so short..

  13. Good job on getting so much wrong and even more right at the same time

  14. A small contribution from an average person can go a long way… the power os Ideas.
    Thanks TED!

  15. All I can say is, minecraft!

  16. this is brilliant idea,please continue.

  17. @Siglojunior i just saw some guy talking for 13 minutes about a 3clap pushup. If you can say it in 10 minutes, you an probably say it in 5 too 🙂

  18. modern art at the best!

  19. This park is in the latest episode of Louie.

  20. awesome !

  21. gostei e vou divulgar!

  22. Change the fucking intro. I'm getting tired of seeing al gores false global warming ass.

  23. they should put a giant bubble around it so you dont get fucking sick, and it would look like jetsons future AND PTERODACTYLS ON THE OUTSIDE!

  24. @slysci5 No you weren't, it sorta crushed my dreams but it was still quite awesome, i didn't know about this project at all. And it looks amazing.

  25. I am proud to say that i worked on that park for 6 month's on site and 6 months of fabration work off site. It has it's own web site for more info. I truly thank Robert Hammond.
    Got me off a layoff. Got my yearly hours for health care. Gave me my self respect back and food on my table.
    Future work because of R Hammond in area construction is a sure thing.
    Two guy's that fought for a park sure made a lot of money for a lot of people.
    Thank You

  26. I think it's a terrific and creative repurposing of space. I wonder how much it would have cost to tear it down compared to developing it into a park? That's not free either.

  27. they estimated 262 million in tax revenue. and it turns out they were wrong and it was only half a million? someone dropped the ball on that one

  28. Hell. Build more High-line parks. Increased revenue and less burdensome areas that won't be developed. I could see all kinds parks being raised above the trappings of modern civilization. Why not? We're building on top of buildings too. Why not connect the tops of buildings with walking parks? That would be awesome.

  29. @kiddhitta Billion. Not million. They got twice the revenue that was expected.

  30. @kiddhitta He said half a Billion.

  31. why do german parks look so boring in comparison? we do have creative architects. maybe all those decisionmakers are pussies.

  32. Every time I hate that over loud intro more

  33. Well I see how this was an inspiration for Crysish (2). It's (unlike the game) really beautiful which I hope I could see one day…. unlike the game 😀

  34. seen this on rocketboom 😛

  35. This is awesome.

    I am in awe 😀

  36. Pause @ 3:33

    Fucking awesome…

  37. @tvswnet More parks are not really the solution for saving the world….

  38. Anybody else feel this park officially puts us in the 21st Century?

  39. Why not make a mobile aquaponics facility and use the tracks to move it along once a day. Then you could have a mobile market of fresh produce.

  40. @dAda313 consum?

  41. very, very interesting concept

  42. you ever notice when someone buys property they just have to destroy the previous work in some way it is a power trip happens every time like they have blinders on to the subliminal value that lured them their in the first place most the time they are half the person the previous owner/ creater was. most the time no one likes the new persons ideals anyway just a sort lived destructive cycle wipeing clear relics and Gods beauty. Destruction is a common practice because money says it is right.

  43. Nice, very nice.

  44. @Danen3 oh. good. i was gonna say. how is that even possible to fuck up that bad

  45. Very good

  46. lets be real… can you say hobo sanctuary

  47. 7 people voted thumbs down….What.. too much happiness and goodness in the world for you??

  48. That's such an amazing idea…. looks great too!

  49. The High Line is great.

  50. @Get2TheDeLorean

    Id rather walk through a nice garden with hobos, than a shitty alley with hobos

  51. @HimmuraTube now 8! (at the time i saw this) LOL

  52. In the sky? I was hoping for a construction floating high above the city.

  53. He wants to "recreate the wildscape". How about not touching it and let it be.. wild?
    It's a paradox… you can't CREATE something WILD.

  54. TED talks make me believe maybe there is a god. Probably not….but they're that good.

  55. A great idea. It looks amazing. They should probably build more raised platforms specifically for purposes like this, give them a good width too.

  56. @Mrmoc7 To be fair this idea wasn't that new.

  57. @cruiscinlan What next? You want to see beekeepers in NYC? Oh wait, there ARE beekeepers in NYC.

  58. @lowell90 You mean stupid enough to fall for it?

  59. I think Ted talks needs a new intro. Im getting tired of seeing Al Gores Lying face. Global warming is not real.

  60. @lowell90 Im really hoping that the ted talks audience isnt stupid enough to fall for "global warming" lmfao.

  61. gREAT!!

  62. hreajgrhfghfgho;ihgbuyfvytawseome!

  63. I want to go there!!!!!

  64. Great Idea!!!

  65. That is nice but community gardens (producing food) might have been better.

    "Money/market" is ROOT of problems, how do we:

    1. stop corruption caused by profit motive?

    2. ensure everyone has minimum necessities?

    1. FREELY Share ALL resources & knowledge worldwide, NO more money/property

    2. Use LATEST technology to create an ABUNDANCE of all our needs, NO more waste/theft

    3. Automate/localize ALL production and distribution, NO more central control/wage slavery


  66. @dontblockmedk

    I agree with your first sentence. Personally I don't understand why we don't just plant apple trees and blackberry bushes and all sorts of simple, easily grown things at every street corner and walkway. What harm would it do? If we can plant trees everywhere to make things look "scenic" why not apple or cherry trees? Then you can be walking, decide you are a bit peckish and simply reach out and grab a piece of fruit as you walk on by. Would be a godsend for the homeless too.

  67. @TheFounderUtopia That is right. I always wonder why they don't plant fruit trees and vegetable plants all over, especially in public areas using public money.

    Instead of the government giving trillions of dollars to banks and multinational corps, imagine if they used that money to install solar panels and plant fruit trees and vegetables in many residences around the country.

    Money market property system FAILED, we need to use scientific method to produce all necessities for all directly.

  68. @dontblockmedk

    I'm not even concerned about setting aside extra money for it, while that would be a bonus, it's really not *necessary* to make this happen. The same money they already spend planting rows of trees on every sidewalk could be used on apple trees. There could be stretches of soil following every road, public gardens in every park where we all drop our own seeds and let them grow. When you stop fighting nature and just let her bloom, everything gets CHEAPER, nature WANTS to provide.

  69. What a great idea!

  70. that's really cool! Inspiring

  71. That is a very cool idea.

  72. Wow, that is an intriguing use for the railroad. I want to walk those parks when i'll go visit NYC sometime in the future 🙂

  73. prettyawe

  74. Let's just hope the guy won't get shot on a boat.

  75. is it just me or is Robert Hammond hot?

  76. @CustardGanet straight form sickipedia, nice

  77. So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.

  78. what a brilliant idea. You've turned something that looked to be an eyesore, in to a beautiful open space for people. what a great way to see around parts of your city. Obviously a safer place in the middle of town for people during the day to be outside in the sun. Well done.

  79. The most beautiful and awesome redemption of old architecture I've ever seen. Really inspires me to keep working on my dreams…

  80. Who else here because of their English homework?

  81. Fucking test with this fucking homework

  82. pretty cool how i watched this in june and in august there i was walking in the high line

  83. Umm..I think that's pretty good

  84. And not a single mention of Joel Sternfeld, who not only helped inspire others to get on board with the High Line project, but who's photograph you stole for your presentation! Thumbs up for Ted, Thumbs down for you.

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