Since 2001, Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit organization that spearheads the effort to transform an mile-long-plus stretch of abandoned elevated train tracks on the city's West Side into a public park, has staged an annual benefit to raise funds for the civic project. As was the case in 2007, the evening included cocktails at the IAC Building and dinner at the David Zwirner Gallery across the street, but this time the event featured at least one major change: The High Line will be open for visitors before the year ends. “It's beyond my wildest dreams,” said Joshua David, co-founder of the organization.
The evening celebrated the unveiling of the plans for sections one and two of the High Line Park, and honored donors Hermine Riegerl Heller and David Heller and Sukey and Mike Novogratz, whose support helped make the High Line's 10th Avenue Overlook a reality. “[The overlook] was one of our favorite features, and unless we found private funds to have it built, it wouldn't have happened,“ said David. “They came forward with the funding we needed to make it possible.”
Van Wyck & Van Wyck returned to design the decor, a job it has handled since 2001. (Co-owner Bronson van Wyck is a Friends of the High Line board member.) As it did last year, the company created three different environments in the connected cavernous spaces of the Zwirner Gallery. A room decorated in gold had strands of mirrored discs and hand-painted butterflies made of feathers suspended from the ceiling, while almost 1,000 yards of green silk and chiffon hovered over, and around guests in the emerald room. In the room inspired by the sky, attendees dined under clouds of baby's breath and hydrangea. Lighting in matching hues from Bentley Meeker warmed the bare walls of the gallery spaces.
While the centerpieces at the 2007 benefit included found objects from the High Line tracks, this year's tabletops featured salvaged pieces of the rails themselves, surrounded by plant specimens representative of species which grow on the tracks, housed in plexiglass boxes. These terrariums also functioned as the surface on which the “linear” (i.e., family-style) dinner was served. “Often, tables don't sit down at the same time. It's very hard for a caterer: When do you serve?” Van Wyck said. “This way people can start eating, or people can enjoy the sunset and cocktails. There were whole tables that didn't come in until 9 p.m.”
After the meal, many guests lingered on the closed-off street between the two event spaces, eating sweets served from caterer Bite's ice cream carts. “I left at 11:45 and people were still there, which is pretty late for a midweek event in June,” said Van Wyck.