Notes from The High Line’s “Beyond Economic Impact” symposium

November 7, 2019 by Paul Bauknight

Recently, I attended the High Line Network’s first symposium Beyond Economic Impact: Charting the Field of Infrastructure Reuse in New York City. The High Line Network was formed as a response to the High Line’s incredible success of over 8 million visitors a year while also focusing on some of the unintended consequences of the project, including the hyper-gentrification of the neighborhood surrounding the High Line project.

The High Line Network is a group of infrastructure reuse projects and the people who are making them happen from around the country; it was started to learn, “what is working and what is not?”

The symposium was held at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice. This is not a coincidence and aptly demonstrates the Network’s commitment to equity and equity-focused practices in the development of public spaces.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is connected to the High Line Network directly through Robert Hammond the Executive Director of Friends of the High Line, who has been a speaker at our Next Generation of Parks Event Series twice. At his most recent talk here in March of this year, Hammond’s presentation was on what the High Line got right and what it got wrong.  Shortly after that presentation, he reached out to the Parks Foundation and invited us to attend the High Line Network symposium.

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Covering three days, the symposium was an intense time of learning and interacting with a wide range of leaders on the local and national level who are developing exciting community focused public spaces. A unique and refreshing aspect of this gathering was the amount of grassroots leadership present. Community leaders could and did interact with national experts on public space development, financing, and programming. It was truly a diverse and inclusive event. All during the symposium a host of impressive and inspiring speakers provided fresh insights and highlighted the power of the human spirit.

Equity and inclusivity were themes woven through the entire event. Difficult topics were tackled, and difficult conversations were had. Plenty of space was given for reflection and contemplation of complex issues that we must tackle in the development of public spaces in our cities and communities.

I left New York tired but enriched and motivated by my experience at the High Line Network Symposium. The Network succeeded in bringing together a diverse set of people who over three days engaged in the work of creating great public spaces and all left better for it.

Featured Image: April De Simone speaking about “How Can Design Address Equity.” This, and all photos in this post, courtesy of The High Line and ®Liz Ligon. Thank you!

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