Venture west into the bustling Chelsea area of New York City, and you’re likely to stumble across a tranquil oasis: A 1.45-mile linear park built atop an elevated freight line.
Home to more than 110,000 plantings and 456 plant species, the High Line has become a popular destination for nature-craving New Yorkers, transforming the way we think about green space.
Yet, it almost didn’t happen.
“In the first few years, it just seemed incredibly unlikely,” said Joshua David, co-founder and current board member of Friends of the High Line. “When you described it, people just looked at you blankly.”
When David founded Friends of the High Line in 1999, there were hardly any examples of elevated rail lines transformed into public spaces. He drew his inspiration from a similar park created in Paris in 1993. The High Line has become a cherished symbol of urban environmentalism, as iconic as the Chrysler Building or Macy’s Herald Square.
The High Line is one of many environmental projects Rooted In NYC. The initiative, launched by TD Bank this year as part of its TD Forests program, celebrates New Yorkers who are greening their communities. In addition to its support of Friends of the High Line, TD Bank is also a lead sponsor of the MillionTreesNYC initiative, which aims to plant one million trees in the city by year’s end.
Since the linear park opened 15 years ago, David says it has become a gathering place for people to socialize, showcase artwork and enjoy local food. It’s also the scene of innovative art exhibits, like this summer’s installation by artist Olafur Eliasson, which inspired visitors to build LEGO® utopias.
David is particularly proud of the TD Bank-sponsored Green Corps program, which invites local teens to work at the High Line each summer. Through this initiative, students learn about horticulture and sustainable jobs while helping the 140-person staff keep the park beautiful during peak season.
And true to the grassroots way in which it began, today, 98% of the park’s annual budget is raised by Friends of the High Line, the non-profit organization that maintains, operates and creates programming for the park in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
“For me, the High Line is really a reflection of New Yorkers and their commitment to making it a better place,” David said.