Thursday, August 11th, 2011

An Upside-Down High Line?


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
3 Comments » | Published in Urban Planning  |  3 Comments

I was cruising today, as I often do, and I was really interested in this article about the new esplanade underneath the elevated FDR Drive. They make the analogy to The High Line (one of my favorite projects/parks in the whole wide world), describing the way the new project uses the space beneath the elevated highway. All of this makes me wonder, as I always have, how different the results (and preceding hellish construction that went on for what seemed like forever) of Boston’s Big Dig could have been if this precedent in NYC had already existed, or if the planners and politicians had simply looked at the project differently. The main excuse for The Big Dig (which tied up most of the country’s federal highway funds for years) was that Boston was cut off from its waterfront due to the elevated highway. However, anyone who ever walked from Faneuil Hall to Rowe’s Wharf back in the day knows, the waterfront clearly was not cut off by the highway at all; in fact, it was very easy to walk beneath it. The waterfront area had already revitalized itself long before The Big Dig came along. And you know what? I miss driving through buildings on an elevated highway at 50 m.p.h. – it was pretty awesome. Now we have to drive through this thing, where we hold our collective breath and hope no concrete slabs fall from the ceiling and crush us:

Anyway, this Manhattan promenade looks like a cool project. I always tend to like any project that involves Ken Smith, who had my class over to his office, gave us beers, and strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge with us in 1999. I’ll never forget that the walls of the office were covered in bubble wrap, and wondered how his employees could resist popping them all day. I’ll also never forget that he was playing some kind of weird gong music, and my friend Lucia whispered to me “this is my favorite song” and I got an uncontrollable case of the giggles (the laughing in church, wet your pants kind of giggles). But I digress. In fact, I just had deja-blog, which means I think I write that story every time I mention Ken Smith’s name. Click on that link above and check out the article; there are some great images there. And let me know what you think of The Big Dig, the East River promenade, and The High Line if you have a second. I’d love to hear from you.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!


Filed under Urban Planning  |  3 Comments


  1. visualingual says:

    August 15th, 2011 at 10:12 am (#)

    Well, hmm. By the time I moved to Boston, the Big Dig was already underway, and I don’t really remember the elevated highway from previous trips. But, when I lived in the North End, I could tell that a lot of what made that neighborhood charming was coming to an end, and that the lack of separation [real or perceived] would soon chip away at that little enclave’s personality and absorb it into an increasingly upscale part of the city. That seems to be exactly what’s happening.

    By the way, a sinkhole has recently appeared under the tunnel!

  2. becky says:

    August 15th, 2011 at 10:31 am (#)

    I wonder what Jane Jacobs would say; she used the North End as evidence against, (oh crap, what was the word when they would go in and tear down “slum” neighborhoods to build some big awful thing like Boston City Hall, urban renewal?) so much in “Death and Life of American Cities.”

    The truth is, like in most cities, for awhile there the waterfront was total crap – industrial and yucko. Then it had basically renewed itself via the Aquarium, Rowe’s Wharf, etc. long before the Big Dig came in to renew it.

  3. visualingual says:

    August 17th, 2011 at 7:25 pm (#)

    I have to say, though, that the skinny new strip of greenspace that’s replaced the freeway seems really cool, especially given Boston’s larger network of parks.

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