The crazy proliferation of highways has left a century or more of rail infrastructure redundant. As it languishes it often turns into the only nature reserve in highly urbanised areas.
The High Line in New York is a typical example. If you’ve ever been to Chelsea you’ve probably seen it. It’s a mile and a half long and runs through three of Manhattan’s most dynamic neighborhoods: Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Yards, West Chelsea, and the Gansevoort Market Historic District.
When it was built in the 1930s, these were industrial areas, now they’re fashionable art and creative areas. The Friends of the High Line are proposing its reuse as a park but public space of any sort is a difficult issue in the US where fascist ideologues errrr I mean Republicans, have often reduced public space to little more than roadways. (Yep, I’m talking about you, Boca Raton!) Even in highly civilised New York they are having trouble but let’s hope they succeed because it’s a great project.
But as always, Paris was there before New York. In the early 1990s, the city of Paris successfully converted a similar elevated rail viaduct
near the Bastille opera house into a 4.7 kilometre pedestrian walkway called the Promenade PlantÃ©e.
It crosses the entire 12th arrondissement from the Place de la Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes at the eastern edge of Paris. That’s the thing about Paris, it’s a civil society and a public space, not just a place.