In an earlier post, I noted that New York's new High Line park was funded by the entire city but that most of the benefits went to local residents and landlords. I suggested that New York could create a special assessment district, such as was common for parks in the nineteenth century and is becoming increasingly common in New York today, to charge surrounding properties some of the cost of maintenance and construction.
I was excited to learn that the non-profit managers of the park, Friends of the High Line, suggested a "High Line Improvement District," with accompanying tax assessments, to help raise part of the estimated $3.5 million dollars in annual maintenance costs.
Unfortunately it appears that local residents were able to shoot down the idea.
Perhaps the inflated salary of the High Line's director, reported in this Times story, helped fan community opposition. But the main problem was that local residents already had their park, and they knew concentrated opposition always carries more political weight than a very slight tax increase spread across the whole city. Other successful improvement districts, like that around Bryant Park, were created before most of the actual improvements were done, so that payors knew that without their contribution they would not receive the public park or public good. Once the work on the High Line was substantially complete, however, most residents knew that the city would not close down, or let deteriorate, such a well-publicized project. Their opposition to the assessment district, like the construction of the park itself, carried no cost to them.
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