26th June 2017

Under the High Line

Zigzagging back and forth under the High Line, block by block, my intention was to find out how the park affects businesses in the immediate vicinity (if at all). Generally, feedback was neutral or positive from businesses that benefit from tourism, and neutral or negative from businesses that serve local residents. This was what I expected to hear, since the High Line has become a ‘tourist-clogged catwalk’ (in the words of Jeremiah Moss, for the New York Times). However, some of the reasons behind these sentiments were illuminating – and underlined one particular thing that the park designers got very, very wrong.

Toilets. There are simply nowhere near enough of them to accommodate the number of tourists visiting the High Line on a daily basis. What this means is that local businesses are used as public restrooms, often without being asked.

Mobil gas station is within sight of the northern section of the High Line, where it circumvents the train depot, and close to one of the exit stairways. I had been in the gas station shop just long enough for the cashier to explain that their biggest problem is tourists constantly using their toilet, and then, as if right on cue, the door was flung open and a man strode into the toilet without saying a word. After a few minutes of ‘See? Did you see that? You saw that right?’ interrupted by customers paying for their fuel, the man then emerged from the toilet and left without saying a word.

Mobil gas station with the High Line in the background.

This sort of encounter also unfolded before me at The Half King pub, when a father asked the greeter at the door whether his young daughter could pee. Given that I was in the pub for less than 5 minutes talking to the employee at the door, one can only imagine how many times this must occur per day, causing significant disruption.

Under Line Coffee shop was the only business I found that actually benefits from the lack of toilet facilities on the High Line. It is so small that it doesn’t have a toilet, and isn’t required to by law. According to the cashier, this means that sometimes when tourists come into the shop searching for a toilet, their disappointment in not finding one does not stop them from being tempted by the selection of fresh food available behind the counter...

Under Line Coffee shop - easy to miss!

Manhattan Car Wash employee: "We had to adjust the prices to compensate for the gentrification"