In conversation with John Alschuler

Read and watch our interview with Emeritus Chair of the New York High Line

John Alschuler is Chairman of HR&A Advisors and Emeritus Chair of the New York High Line. John served as chairman of the board of Friends of the High Line for five years and his role was crucial in transforming and advocacy organisation, Friends of the High Line, led by the two founders, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, into a conservancy that could run the park.

John Alschuler and Simon Pitkeathley

In the words of Robert Hammond: ‘We met with John Alschuler, and I thought, I want to hire this guy, because I found him so compelling. He had the ability to encapsulate complex arguments in simple terms’.

Following this meeting. John’s firm, HR&A Advisors, carried out the economic impact study to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits of the New York High Line would outweigh the necessary capital costs of construction. And the rest, as they say, is history…

We were lucky enough to meet John during his recent trip to the UK, and learnt a huge amount about the challenges the Friends of the High Line faced. Including everything from suing the City, to the width of snow ploughs(!) and the enormous fundraising challenges involved with a park that employs 140+ people.

We (Simon) started by asking John about the similarities between the Camden location and New York, and the lessons we can learn. A few of which are below…

Lesson 1: The first and most important lesson of the High Line is that when citizens have a dream , whee they are willing to work hard, when they understand the quality of design, when they connect to the need of their community, the improbable can be made real - and the new parks created — because citizens will them in to existence.

John Alschuler Interview 1

Lesson 2: The park was an investment in New York’s future, not only as a civic good, it paid of as an economic investment, and returns 5/6 times more money in revenue to the City than it cost to build.

Lesson 3: The (New York High Line) is one of the most interesting and creative parks. Everything Robert Hammond and Joshua David did brought a sense of imagination for the transformation of urban life — and that excited people.

“Work hard and never give up. If you have a dream, dreams happen, but they only happen if dreamers make them happen.”

John Alschuler Interview 3

Lesson 4: Parks are a fundamental element of civic life.

“Our parks are what bring people together.”

John Alschuler Interview 4

Lesson 5: The infrastructure the Camden Highline would use can serve London in a new and different way from when it was originally built.

“Every time I walk the High Line I see New York in a new way.”

John Alschuler Interview 5

And finally, our favourite quote.

“When I look up and see this structure, I see the bones of a great new space.”