There are as many reasons to admire this book as there are entries to the High Line. So I’ll give you nine.
1. It’s inspirational: a true David and Goliath story, set in post 9/11 New York City, featuring two guys who admit quite charmingly in these pages that they had no idea what they were doing. And they won.
2. It’s spot-on, Zeitgeist-wise: if you’re even remotely interested in the movement of urban landscape design that is sweeping major cities around the world, David & Hammond have just given you the playbook. This book tells the full story of how these two young men, with lots of help from a wide variety of people and over a ten year period, navigated the neighborhood, city, state, corporate, and Federal politics to create this park.
3. It has that magical element that non-fiction readers love: voice. These two guys, in alternating paragraphs, each come across as distinct personalities and as they tell their story we come to know them as individuals. There are other key characters who come alive, including Gifford Miller and the extraordinary Amanda Burden, a woman who has done something I will always be grateful for: she has made New York a better city.
4. If you love New York…: this a book that will help you understand how and why it works as well as it does under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg.
5. It’s unsparingly honest. Serious readers know when they’re being jollied along, and these guys give us everything, warts and all: their disagreements, crises of faith and plenty of unpretty moments, like a hangover that could have derailed an important meeting.
6. Marvelous, excruciating detail. Example: Hammond provides the color swatch for the Sherwin-Williams paint color of the High Line’s railings: SW6994. It’s called “Greenblack,” and you too can use it in your own kitchen, just as he did.
8. It’s a cautionary tale: on every page you marvel that the thing actually got built, that these men didn’t get derailed.
9. The High Line, the glorious “park in the sky.” What’s not to love? Here’s a book that celebrates both the creation — in all its gritty, gnarly detail — and the end result: a park that always inspires, always leaves room for dreaming.
I’ve been writing about the High Line for three and a half years on this blog and I was surprised that I ended up learning something on just about every page of this book. It’s a great story.
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