A cropped photograph of the High Line signature benches, in which the concrete paving "peels up" to become a bench with wood slats.
Copyright ETM Associates, LLC
New York, New York
Client: Friends of the Highline, City of New York
Awards: O+M Plan - NJASLA Landscape Planning & Analysis Award, 2017 and NYASLA Analysis, Planning, Research & Communications Award, 2020

The High Line is an iconic elevated freight line park that runs from the Lower West Side of Manhattan up to 30th Street. The park is 20-30 feet above street level and as a result, many conventional maintenance strategies are not applicable to the site. Even daily tasks, such as uploading trash or bringing materials onto the freight line-turned-park, can prove problematic. Moreover, the nature of the structure and the design greatly restrict the use of vehicles on site. With these and other site restrictions in mind, ETM Associates worked with James Corner Field Operations, an NYC landscape architecture firm, the NYC Department of Parks, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, and Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization, to develop a Maintenance and Operations Plan for Phases 1 and 2 of the High Line.

A prime example of ETM’s role was the revision in design of the proposed peel-up benches. Initial plans called for the entire bench to be constructed as one continuous length of concrete that would run 12 feet long or more. After diligent research, ETM determined that when the bench requires any repair or replacement, it would be necessary to shut down the street and rent a five-ton crane to lift the new material onto the site. Without compromising the integrity of the design, ETM advised replacing the seating portion of the bench with traditional slats, thus allowing ease of material delivery and replacement.

In addition, ETM advised on the design of park maintenance facilities and special equipment needs. Some of these recommendations included planning for lifts that would be required to hoist materials and supplies from street level; garbage chutes that enable direct delivery of trash to street level; and small mobile units, such as golf carts and bicycles, outfitted for maintenance work.

Some of the maintenance challenges have been alleviated with the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. At the time of ETM’s work, the future of Phase 3 was uncertain and our Maintenance and Operations Plan had to account for not having direct ground access.

ETM’s Maintenance and Operations Plan for the park won an NJASLA Landscape Planning and Analysis Award and an NYASLA Analysis, Planning, Research & Communications Award. The High Line itself also has won a myriad of awards since opening.