When did gentrification happen in Manhattan?

gentrification through engineering? - new paths in new york

Column Reinhard Hübsch

The High Line on West 20th Street, which has been transformed into a park (Photo: Beyond My Ken (CC-BY-SA-3.0))

Just imagine for a moment, the Hamburger Hochbahn between Landungsbrücken and Rödingsmarkt turns out to be unprofitable and is closed - will the structure then be dismantled? or the berliner bvg would come up with the idea that the approximately two kilometer long and recently extensively renovated section of the subway between oderberger Strasse and esplanade should no longer run above Schönhauser Allee, but rather be buried - the viaduct would then have to remain unused for years in front of you in rotten? these questions also arose in new york when the highline was discontinued in the southwest of manhattan in 1980. For almost half a century, pork schnitzel, halves of beef and other foods had been transported on the elevated railway; but after the freight traffic had increasingly been shifted to the road, the section of the route was closed.

For years nothing happened, fauna and flora took over the elevated structure until part of it was torn down in the early 1990s - what remained was a hull that continued to rust away. Well-funded investors saw attractive building land in the street area below, and after they had received a demolition permit for the last steel structures from the city administration, residents spoke up - in the friends of the high line they organized the resistance against the dismantling. as an alternative use, they suggested a high park, just like the promenade plantée in paris, where an elevated green belt had been created in the 12th arrondissement, starting from place de la bastille.

Every year two million visitors stroll through the park on stilts (_)

New York's mayor Bloomberg was convinced: in 2006 he broke the first symbolic groundbreaking after architects such as Diller and Scofidio had submitted convincing designs together with the landscapers from James Corner Field Operations. The work in the three construction phases (the youngest is just being completed) was not cheap: an estimated 250 million dollars were invested, but the yield is impressive. because around two million new york visitors stroll through the park every year on stilts, prizes and awards such as the “Life Enhancer of the Year” rained down on the green space, and the catwalk soon became a coveted one for filmmakers and photographers location.

The "green ribbon" - cleverly staged in the evening and at night with light installations

and not just for the artists: similar to prenzlauer berg, which advanced from the gnawed slum area of ​​east berlin to the eldorado of the capital's young academics, similar to hamburg-altona, where soot-blackened factory halls converted into luxury lofts of hanseaten-chiceria, the meatpacker district suddenly mutated into hot spot of the us metropolis. 350 meat processing companies once went about their bloody business here, until in 1980 the butcher-proletariat pulled the last wagons with frozen turkeys over the highline into the city's eternally hungry stomachs, now the creative ones discovered the charm of the green belt, which goes through in the evenings and at night light installations are cleverly staged.

IAC-building (Photo: Reinhard Hübsch)

Anyone who strolls through the green belt will see the upper class houses and studios to the left and right. the high street became the avenue of global architecture stars: frank gehry created a glass crystal palace called the IAC building, the frosted glass zones of which hide the content behind a mysterious whisper; in the direct vicinity of this iceberg, jean nouvel makes the facade of a residential and commercial building blink and flash because the windows are all slightly inclined towards each other. directly on the highline, on a plot of just 353 square meters, Neil M. Denari Architects had a ten-storey building called HL23, which expanded from bottom to top, and whose apartments offer more than 3,600 square meters of space.

Jean Nouvel's residential and commercial building (Photo: Reinhard Hübsch)

directly next to it, in an abandoned factory hall, was the chelsea market, a covered market square for gourmets frequented by six million visitors every year, above it a hotel, and gallery after gallery on the western edge of the district - probably the densest art house district of the world, as scene connoisseurs speculate. no wonder that the whitney museum has its annex built here, incidentally by france's architecture couturier renzo piano.

the high line offers a “walk on the wild side”, as the “new york times” recently scolded, alluding to the pop classic by lou reed & the velvet underground; But the highline also forced many of the meatpacker destrict to walk out of the wild side - property prices exploded, at times investors paid almost $ 2,000 per square meter of living space, and at the same time rents shot up like skyscrapers into the financial sky.

HL23 by Neil M. Denari Architects (Photo: Reinhard Hübsch)

the descendants of the port workers and journeyman butchers who once worked here for their dimes, cents and greenbacks have now left the quarter to loud protests. Residents and employees still demonstrated against the fatal development last year. where a $ 4,250 rent has to be paid for a small one-bedroom apartment, a worker earns just under $ 11 an hour, they added. here, where rock stars like david byrne are now opening their new york branches, real estate for 1.6 million dollars would change hands, in the neighborhood of mick jagger and nicole kidman - who have also discovered the charm of the nearby bourgeoisie - are scarce seven million to be paid - the average hourly wage here is $ 12.10.

It is to be hoped that between Landungsbrücken and Rödingsmarkt, as well as above Schönhauser Allee, no one would come up with the idea of ​​shutting down the Hamburg and Berlin highlines. After all, if the civil engineering structures are newly planted, they could be far more expensive than a ticket.


Reader comments

  1. Dirk Jesse | June 11, 2014

    Interesting insights and comparisons of urban development. Thanks for that. Why I have to struggle through a basically fluent text in this column for lack of capital letters remains a mystery to me.

  2. Markus Decker (with 2 capital letters) | June 11, 2014

    I agree with the previous speaker ... an actually interesting topic becomes really illegible due to the supposedly cool omission of capital letters ... on the small screen as well as in the printout. So come on, dear momentum magazine, the 80's called, permanent lower case is no longer cool.