High Line Backs Down


The High Line, seen from the Standard Hotel, one of hundreds of properties that faced a potential tax to help fund the park.

Friends of the High Line has withdrawn its proposal to fund park upkeep with an assessment on nearby buildings that it would have grouped as a "High Line Improvement District." Cofounder Robert Hammond told AN that to do otherwise would have violated the group’s commitment to civic responsibility after many residents balked at the idea.

"Most of the objection was coming from residents, mostly east of Tenth Avenue," Hammond said. "I think people, even though the assessment was very small, felt they didn’t want to be assessed."

The group had proposed a "High Line Improvement District" that would, like similar cordons around Union Square or Times Square, fund park maintenance through a surtax on property values in the area. The proposal entailed a fee on residential buildings, though, where the more common approach taxes only commercial properties with higher cashflow. Hammond suggested that residents, despite the cachet of the High Line, stopped short of considering themselves bound to it.

The group has been struggling to come up with the $3.5 million it needs to operate the park in addition to $1 million already provided by the city, especially as fundraising dries up during the down economy. The business improvement district plan was expected to generate upwards of $1 million for the park.

Hammond said he and his colleagues would now try to capitalize on whatever local goodwill they can find. "We’re going to do a corporate membership program, we’ve expanded our regular membership program and we’re looking at how we can cut costs," he said.

And he did not rule out reintroducing the idea of a tax district. "The majority of the people liked the idea, we could have gotten this through," he said. "But we don’t want to be in a protracted argument with the community."

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