Beyond appearances: Community activism and New York City’s High Line


Journal of Landscape Architecture Volume 14, 2019 – Issue 3

Conventional views of the High Line emphasize either its formal and ecological design attributes or its role in gentrification and displacement. While accurate, such assessments mostly ignore the agency-driven, activist agendas that brought the project about and that continue to propel its equity mission both locally and around the world. This essay places the High Line’s implementation and longer-term impacts in the context of citizen advocacy. It reveals the strategies and tactics used by local residents to undermine initial opposition by city officials and local developers; it identifies the ways that project supporters understood themselves to have become victims of their own success; and it details the organizational and programmatic responses undertaken by the Friends of the High Line to compensate for the project’s negative impacts, ranging from the development of inclusive programming to the establishment of an inter-city advocacy network for sharing ideas about how to repurpose industrial infrastructures as public spaces that reinforce equity and inclusion.