They were the most unlikely of pairs. Joshua David was a freelance writer, editor, and part-time cater waiter. Robert Hammond (a history major in college) had consulted during the dot-com boom and dabbled in painting on the side. They had never met, but a community board meeting and perhaps a bit of gay joie de vivre brought them together on a fateful night back in 1999.
“I sat next to Robert because I thought he was cute,” says Joshua in their memoir High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky. “Community board meetings are not necessarily filled with cute guys, so I said to myself, ‘Well, there’s one, why don’t I sit next to him?’” And the rest, they say, is elevated history.
Both were vaguely interested in what might happen to a 1.45-mile stretch of abandoned railway that ran above ground from Gansevoort Street in New York City’s West Village to 34th Street. The line was in full operation from 1931 until 1980—transporting food, manufactured products, and raw materials directly to factories and warehouses. It had been out of service ever since, overgrown with naturally seeded wildflowers and indigenous grasses and shrubs.