visit New York's High Line NOW

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Posted by NorthWest on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 9:55 PM

Yes, they were designed to avoid spooking horses with some sucess.

wanswheel, Yes, and more is always welcome!

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 5:52 PM
Excerpt from “Jimmie Walker - The Story of a Personality” by Louis J. Gribetz and Joseph Kaye (1932)
It is not within the scope of this work to include a survey of Walker's administrative contributions to New York City during his double term of office; but there are certain things he has done within that category known antiquely as "achievements" which, because they are of the type that most readily elicit his sympathies, because they illustrate his executive qualities and because they reflect to some extent his personality, should be recorded here. Chief among these is an enterprise known by the rather grim nickname of "Death Avenue."
"Death Avenue" is the unofficial name given by popular and bitter assent to the roadway fronting the Hudson River throughout the length of lower and upper Manhattan. This roadway has been one of the ranking sores of the city for almost half a century.
In 1846, by an act of the Legislature, the Hudson River Railroad Company was given permission, in agreement with the City of New York, to lay its tracks on any street west of Eighth Avenue. This railroad was built and steam locomotives attached to cars heavily laden with freight began running through the West side of the city with the casualness of street cars.
While the city was young and eighty years ago Riverside Drive was a fine piece of wooded land, ideal for picnickers this use of city streets for rolling stock did not matter so much. But as the population increased and the West Side became especially congested, the tracked streets were not merely eyesores but a deadly evil. Accidents began to happen with appalling frequency. Children playing and wandering across the tracks, men underestimating the speed of a train, feet caught in the ties, foggy nights all these contributed to a long series of fatalities.
The Hudson Railroad had by now merged with the New York Central, but the trains still ran on the streets. By the turn of the century there was started a widespread agitation for relief from this menace, and for a quarter of a century thereafter not a year went by without some sort of action being undertaken by citizens or city officials to eliminate "Death Avenue." The mass of reports, minutes of meetings and literature of varying sorts regarding these removal efforts which accumulated during this time would fill a library. But the tracks were still there and deaths continued to notch their history.
The difficulty in solving the problem lay not so much in the objections raised by the railroad (for it was obvious that the cost of relaying the tracks either above or below the street level would have to be shared by the city) as in the agreement upon, first, an engineering plan acceptable to both the city and the company and, secondly, the basis of compensation to the railroad. The peculiarity of the situation was that, although the citizens blamed the city for the failure to eliminate "Death Avenue," the moment a plan was evolved they swooped down on City Hall with protests that the railroad was getting the better of the bargain in the financial adjustments.
So "Death Avenue" continued its dangerous existence. Not only was it a menace to life but in the last decade it became a serious obstruction to the city's progress. It interfered with the enormous amount of freight being trucked to the docks. Long lines of conveyances were forced to halt and wait until a train passed, and thus additional congestion was created in a locality already crowded to capacity with merchandise traffic. The tracks also stood out like a sore thumb along the Riverside Drive Parkway and prevented the city from developing miles of an available park area, particularly attractive because it had the advantge of a waterfront. Lastly, "Death Avenue" interfered with public access to the many passenger lines having docks along the Hudson, including all the large transatlantic steamship companies.
Walker, when he became Mayor and inherited "Death Avenue" as a municipal problem, was more than familiar with the notorious road. All his early life had been passed at the side of it, and he had personally witnessed the deaths of eight persons on its tracks. In Albany he had worked for its elimination whenever the opportunity came, and it was while he was in the Assembly that he helped to pass an enabling act which authorized New York City to reach an agreement with the railroad and which served as a foundation for all plans affecting the problem. He came into City Hall with a determination that, no matter how it was done, "Death Avenue" had to go.
Six months after he became Mayor, in July, 1926, he appointed "The West Side Improvement Engineering Committee," with instructions to prepare plans at once for the removal of the tracks. The Committee consisted of all those men who could conceivably bring results. Its members were engineers from the Transit Commission, the Borough of Manhattan (the borough chiefly affected by the nuisance), the Board of Estimate, the Board of Transportation, the New York Central and the Port of New York Authority. There never had been a committee of such scope and competence appointed for the purpose. Previously "Death Avenue" had been used very often as one of the political footballs. Politics was not the business of the men of this Committee.
In the formulating of a plan this body was guided to a large extent by the city engineering staff, which had a long and painful experience with the subject. The first thing these experts did was to examine all plans prepared heretofore and tabulate what had been found objectionable in each for technical, financial, political or any other reasons written into the record. The objectionable features were carefully excluded from the new plan, so that, as far as human ingenuity could foresee, there would be little to protest against when it was brought into the open.
For three years the city engineers slaved away at the problem, constantly inspirited by Walker, who said emphatically at every conference that a way had to be found immediately. They saw in him a man who would not be afraid to face criticism, if necessary, and fight with both fists for any plan he was convinced was right.
So fearful were the engineers of ruinous objections that in those preliminary plans which were available, of course, to taxpayers' organizations they purposely used wrong symbols to mislead and confuse the laymen who might examine them.
Extreme diplomacy had to be used with the railroad. The representatives of the latter would ask the engineers to submit certain demands to the city authorities. The engineers always promised to comply but never did, knowing that it was useless. In a week or two the railroad lawyers would be told that it looked as if the demands would be rejected and that it would be wise for the railroad to amend them. By this time the vigor of the original demand had somewhat abated and both sides were able to get together on a compromise.
Eventually the plan was completed. It had been discussed from every angle and revised to a point where the representatives of all the bodies involved were satisfied. Then it went to the Mayor, who, having watched its formulation, approved it and, after a number of executive hearings, sent it to the Board of Estimate for action.
Here the public associations had their innings. Notwithstanding the care with which the Committee had worked to anticipate all possible criticism consistent with a speedy settlement of the problem, there yet seemed to be left sufficient material for objections to threaten the entire project with collapse once more. The burden of the protests was that the city was offering the New York Central too much in exchange for the removal of the tracks.
Walker, however, knew that the terms in the plan were the best the city could obtain and grimly went about cutting through controversies. To a public representative, a Col. Joyce, who appeared at one of the hearings to protest against the city appraisals of the railroad property, he frankly said:
"It is so difficult, Colonel, and I appreciate it is not an easy job that you occupy, to be more expert than the expert engineers, to be more expert than the expert lawyers. It is a colossal job and you must be expected to miss once in a while. You cannot be expected to be right all the time in all these expert activities."
And in answering Mr. Harry Klein, who represented a body of tax-payers and who asked for more time for his people to examine the proposals, he brought down his right hand in his famous sweeping gesture and declared impatiently: "Something has to be done one way or the other, right now, this year, before this summer is over." (This was in July, 1929.)
Klein replied: "Mr. Mayor, when you sign this agreement and approve it, everything contained therein, everything in the plans submitted by the N. Y. Central and approved by the engineers, becomes adopted at once. Everything that the city is to give is given."
"But that will be true whenever it is done," the Mayor retorted.
"Therefore, why not put off that action finally and conclusively and why not give us a little more time?"
"Exactly that has been the story and history of these tracks on Tenth Avenue for forty years," Walker said firmly. "As soon as one man gets adjournment for a year or two, another comes along, with a new thought and another couple of years has been wasted. A year or two seems to mean nothing. And so this railroad has gone on for forty years."
When Mr. Klein persisted and said that if his organization were given sixty days it would return with a report on the basis of new appraisals, the Mayor replied flatly:
"No, we cannot talk men, women and children along 'Death Avenue' to death. Take only sixty days and lose another life! No. It won't do."
The plan was passed with a modification of one detail, and the Mayor signed the contract with the New York Central that ended a forty-year old battle and achieved for the city the assurance that its greatest nuisance would be removed.
What Walker felt when he signed that contract he expressed with deep emotion six months later in the speech he made in reply to the committee urging him to run for re-election:
"Within my heart there was a throb that I had never experienced before as each day we got closer to the agreement that would rid the city of these railroad tracks. Perhaps no other man intimately associated with it knew just that same thrill or throb because I had known schoolmates, neighbors, when we were little, who had been crushed under the wheels of the trains as they went up and down 'Death Avenue.'
"There was something more than mere mechanics in these negotiations; there was something bigger than mere terms of penny for penny; there was life and limb, there was the protection that this municipality owes to every individual who lives within its confines. And when we sat down to sign that contract there came into my life a satisfaction unlike, or greater, than which I have ever known, because with the elimination of the 'Death Avenue' tracks, though terribly belated, we made an answer to every tombstone that there would be no repetition of the untimely death that many a young boy came to because of the presence of those tracks. And yet, with all that, there will be, or surely will result, from the elimination of the railroad crossings at 'Death Avenue,' probably the greatest industrial or commercial improvement that the Borough of Manhattan or City of New York has ever known."
What the reconstruction of the railroad tracks means can only be grasped by an intensive study of the plans. From a business point of view their striking feature is the building by the New York Central (already begun at this writing) of street upon street of loft structures through which the tracks will run as an elevated roadway. These buildings are for the accommodation of factories and wholesale houses, which will be able to load their merchandise directly onto the freight cars as one does into an elevator, thus eliminating the time and expense of trucking. This extraordinarily convenient arrangement will create a new and large manufacturing area, which in turn will affect the surrounding territory and notably raise the value of property which today is of the slum variety.
As a city improvement the reconstruction is of even greater importance. Practically all along the entire extent of the buried tracks will be located parks, recreation centres and bathing beaches, while long stretches of the territory will be utilized for the continuance of the Express Elevated Highway, the famous raised automobile street, the first section of which was finished in 1930. This roadway will provide, when completed, facility for uninterrupted motor traffic throughout the length of Manhattan, an improvement which will relieve the traffic congestion of New York streets enormously.
The total cost of this enterprise will be, as it is now estimated, $175,000,000, the greater part of which will be borne by the railroad company and the balance by the city and the State.
It was only through Walker's determined executive action that the agreement which brought about such a vast project was consummated. It might have gone on for years and years, as it had in the past, for it was a matter that had in it all the vicious elements leading to endless delays. He took the only means possible for ending such a controversy as existed between the city and the railroad: the appointment of the proper men to solve the technical problems, creation of the best possible plan in the opinion of these experts and the relentless forcing of it through all obstructive opposition.
Future historians of New York City will find in this "Death Avenue" matter a subject for praise for Walker.
"Mayor James J. Walker (right) with Patrick W. Crowley (center), president of the New York Central, at start of elimination of 'Death Avenue'. Mayor Walker pulls up first two spikes in the removal of the West Street railroad tracks on 60th St. and West End Ave."  December 31, 1929
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 6:07 AM

thanks    great posting

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 6:33 AM

It's hard to believe that Jimmy Walker actually took his position as Mayor of New York seriously at one time.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 12:36 PM

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Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 3:34 PM

Great posting! The two light coloured touring cars in Amelia's film are Marmon V-16s, if anyone is interested. "Gentleman" Jimmy Walker -what a guy!

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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 1:53 PM


The High Line's crown jewel was the St. John's Park Terminal, a huge freight house at its southernmost point just above Spring Street. This 800-foot-long, three-story structure had eight railroad tracks with a capacity of 150 freight cars. Fourteen elevators transferred freight down to street-level docks with spaces for 127 trucks. At the south end of the building, a five-ton hoist handled especially heavy loads. Equipped with a sprinkler system, built of concrete, and virtually fireproof, St. John's Park Terminal was state-of-the-art for the era.,+New+York,+NY+10014/@40.7293976,-74.0107639,3a,75y,180h,83.16t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1si386cQ324-gue7MsTq3BgQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x89c259f261c22609:0xfa37d1ca1ccbac!2s550+Washington+St,+New+York,+NY+10014!3b1!8m2!3d40.7284286!4d-74.0098588!3m4!1s0x89c259f261c22609:0xfa37d1ca1ccbac!8m2!3d40.7284286!4d-74.0098588

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