Transforming Abandoned Infrastructure in the United States

During the early 2000s, a disused rail line in Manhattan lay deteriorating—a relic of an era when freight trains traversed the city. Many viewed it as a candidate for demolition. Yet, a handful of forward-thinking locals recognized the potential of this neglected area and campaigned to repurpose it into a public green space for the community. The triumph of this initiative appeared to ignite a “High Line Effect,” motivating other cities across America to explore civic infrastructure projects on obsolete railways, roads, and industrial sites.


According to Arch Daily, the High Line’s immense popularity, however, also contributed to rapid gentrification and displacement in the surrounding neighborhoods like Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Real estate values boomed, pricing out many longtime residents and businesses. While it brought economic benefits, the impacts were not equitably shared with the existing community. Across the United States, this sort of infrastructural displacement disproportionately devastated Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian neighborhoods. As infrastructure reuse projects move forward, equity must be at the forefront to prevent further harm to marginalized groups.


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