RTC Honors New York's Rail-Trail Game Changers

Posted 05/23/12 by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Success Stories, Taking Action

Photo © playgallery.org

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration in October, we honored a group of men and women--the inaugural Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions--who have made a remarkable contribution to the rail-trail movement during the past quarter century. We will be posting a blog story on each of the honorees during the coming weeks. Today we pay tribute to two men--co-founders of the High Line, Robert Hammond and Joshua David--whose creativity, vision and leadership have ensured their names will long remind us all of the boundless possibilities of rail-trail conversions.

Since opening in 2009, the High Line--a pedestrian greenway and linear park built along a former elevated railbed through Manhattan--has become a game changer in the world of urban trails and community-driven adaptive reuse. It has been enormously popular with residents and visitors and has driven the reenergizing of a commercially stagnant area on Manhattan's west side.

Without the foresight and advocacy of Robert Hammond and Joshua David (right), there would be no High Line. Hammond and David founded Friends of the High Line in 1999, inspired at first by a desire to save the unique trestle structure from demolition, and later by the enormous possibility they saw in an elevated public greenway.

Friends of the High Line has raised more than $180 million in public and private funding and now manages the park under a licensing agreement with New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation. Hammond and David's work on behalf of the project has been recognized by civic and professional groups worldwide.

Before the High Line entered their lives, neither man had direct experience in anything resembling trails planning and management, or public projects of this magnitude. Hammond helped start several businesses and consulted with nonprofit organizations. A self-taught artist, he served as an ex-officio member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2005.

Before co-founding Friends of the High Line, David worked as a freelance magazine writer and editor for several publications, including Gourmet, Fortune, Travel + Leisure and Wallpaper.

In a supportive gesture of inter-city fraternity, Hammond and David selected the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail (FBT) in Chicago to receive the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion grant awarded in their honor. The nonprofit FBT formed in 2003 to advocate for the conversion of the three-mile Bloomingdale rail embankment into an elevated, multi-use, linear park and trail in Chicago.

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