High Life for the High Line; Ed Norton Fetes Park at Sweaty Gala

“Oh, here’s Donna Karan! We gotta let her in!” hissed a frantic publicist atop the newly opened High Line Park, even as Parks Department officials were turning away a steady stream of latecomers to the park’s opening bash, held atop its 16th Street section on Monday, June 15.

As guests overflowed, Friends of the High Line co-founder Joshua David descended from the elevated railway, flanked by police officers. “We’re at capacity,” he told the frustrated crowd.

It seemed the A-list was encountering the same problem as other New Yorkers, who have lined up in droves to ascend the High Line since it opened on June 9.

“I think right now our biggest problem is over-success, and just making sure we continue to manage it, and make sure people have a good experience up there,” said Robert Hammond, another co-founder of the group that pushed for the park. Seventy thousand visitors have flocked to the park since it opened, stretching maintenance staffs and increasing fund-raising needs by $300,000.

“We didn’t use any flowers at the event, to save money,” said Mr. Hammond, gesturing to a ceiling full of green balloons shimmering in a sunroom. (It turned out they could be purchased for either $500 or $1,000, to benefit the park.)

In a speech to the packed dining room, where tables went for as much as $100,000, guest of honor Lisa Falcone, who, along with her husband, Philip, donated $10 million to the High Line earlier this month, implored the assembled crowd to help make sure the park succeeded. “My husband says I think money grows on trees, but hey,” she said, to hearty laughter.

Ms. Falcone also told the crowd that her pink-tie-clad husband, one of the park’s biggest benefactors, first discovered the elevated railway when he used one of its steel supports to support himself after a few drinks one night.

The other guest of honor, actor Edward Norton, disclosed his own High Line–related foibles, back when he lived on Horatio Street. “A bunch of us used to go up on the roof when we were imagining all the things we were going to do with our lives, and, you know, have a beer or two, or a smoke of something,” he said. “You would look north up through the meatpacking district, and back then it wasn’t the new Soho, it was the trannies and the truckers and there was this ribbon of green stretching out there.”

Mr. David described sneaking through the park’s chain-link fence with the Fight Club actor, before it was open to the public.

In fact, two-thirds of the park remains fenced off, and questions remain about when the northern sections might open. The city has yet to take control of the northern third of the High Line, which currently stretches above a land-use battle over the West Side rail yards. Friends of the High Line would like to see the city take possession of the park as part of the rezoning.

City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, one of the park’s staunchest supporters at City Hall, said only, “I’m very optimistic that the city will acquire the High Line.” Ms. Burden told the Transom that she had been turned away from the park when she went to the wrong entrance. “I said they were absolutely right and everybody had to start in the same place,” she said.

Asked for her favorite view from the floating park, which she has traversed many times in her official capacities, Ms. Burden gasped. “That’s like choosing amongst my children,” she said.


High Life for the High Line; Ed Norton Fetes Park at Sweaty Gala