High Line

New York City’s popular HIGH LINE park, a repurposed elevated rail line opened to the public in 2009, is an elegant ribbon of green “agri-tecture” suspended thirty feet above street level and weaving its way through a former industrial district of lower Manhattan. Two neighborhood residents, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, and their organization, the Friends of High Line, stand out for their role in bringing Lower Manhattan’s now-famous linear park into being. The focus of this tour is the New York City Planning Department’s rezoning of West Chelsea and the land use innovations that continue to shape the experience of visitors to the park.  In 2009, the West Chelsea Rezoning proposal won the Urban Land Institute’s Global Award for Excellence.                 CLICK here for extra info and quiz. 

NARRATOR:  Erik Botsford is the Deputy Director of the Manhattan division at the New York City Department of City Planning. He supervises a staff of 20 urban planners and designers responsible for community and neighborhood planning and review and management of land use applications throughout the Borough of Manhattan. Erik was previously a planner and Team Leader for the west side of Manhattan at the Department of City Planning. He was the project manager for the rezoning of West Chelsea and served as DCP’s representative on the interagency High Line Development Team, where he was involved in the selection of the design team for the High Line park. Erik also managed the 2007 citywide comprehensive overhaul of design and operational standards for Privately-owned Public Spaces (POPS). Erik holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Florida. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and children.

Podcast I      Introduction      (3:18) 

As the project manager for rezoning West Chelsea, Erik Botsford helped shape the planning measures that supported the creation of the High Line. He describes the important role of zoning in gaining the support of property owners in the area.

Podcast II      Zoning to Protect Property Rights     (4:44) 

The Department of City Planning’s innovative adaptation of zoning tools such as transfer of development rights helped locals realize the value of their property rights.

Podcast III      Zoning that Shapes Experience of Place  (5:01) 

Traveling north from 17th Street, the visitor will note how new development reflects rules intended to enhance the experience of traveling the High Line. A key component of the aesthetics in this corridor is the juxtaposition of narrow and open spaces.

Podcast IV     Zoning to Preserve a Traditional Use  (4:42) 

The Department of City Planning utilized mid-block zoning as part of their strategy for protecting the city’s vigorous art gallery district from displacement by residential development.


Diagram from the 2005 proposal for rezoning West Chelsea–The High Line Transfer Corridor is roughly 100 feet wide. Click on the image above to see the 2005 document that includes the image.


No longer used for transport after 1980, by the late 90’s the elevated rail through West Chelsea had accumulated grit, weeds, and grass, and some in the neighborhood envisioned its future as a park. (Photo credit: Erik Botsford)

Chelsea Buildout

Zoning Diagram

Diagram from the 2005 rezoning proposal for West Chelsea.