High Line New York

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West Side Superstar

The High Line has appeared on every “To Do In New York” list since the 1st of its 3 sections opened in June 2009. Like any park, you can walk, read, chat, eat, relax, watch people, have people watch you, fall in love or have “the talk.”

What makes this public space unique, aside from its architecture, is its journey. It is three stories above Manhattan’s streets and has three stories to tell. First, it was an industrial railway. Then an abandoned, political hot potato. Now it is an urban planning superstar known around the world.

 

The High Line is a park built on an abandoned railway in Manhattan, New York City. This image shows people relaxing on wooden benches somewhere around the middle of the High Line.

Located between 14th & 15th Streets, the Sun Deck is a popular area on the High Line. Take your pick: writing, reading, texting, drinking coffee, thinking, people watching, taking photos, all from the comfort of your own wooden deck chair.

The High Line: 2 Sections Down, 1 To Go

On Tuesday, June 7th  2011, I walked along the park’s 2nd section for the 1st time. At the 30th Street exit/entrance, I asked a park employee a few questions before leaving.

When did the High Line’s 2nd section open?

Today, at about 1 pm.

Today?

Yeah, there was a lot of press here. They were going to open it tomorrow, but when the mayor finished speaking, they just decided to open it to everyone. The official opening is tomorrow, though.

I had stumbled upon opening day without realizing. Nice!

His face changed when I asked about the park’s 3rd and final section opening.

It’s going to be a while.”

Why?

Politics.

Ah, yes, the P word. Politics is the reason why the High Line wasn’t built until the 1930s, why it it was later left to rot from disuse, why it was almost torn down and why it rose like a phoenix from its rusted ashes. Politics and the High Line are old chums.

The High Line, in Manhattan, New York stretches goes from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea.This image shows one of the High Line's longer, narrow sections. To the left we see train tracks overgrown with tracks. These tracks were removed and later replaced during the park's construction phase. On the right, pedestrians walk down a long, narrow pathway.

This stretch of the High Line, between 19th and 20th Street reminds me of a skyscraper laying on its side. The High line’s 1.45 miles (2.33 km) stretch 22 blocks, from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea and into Midtown West. Everything on the High Line, including the tracks, was removed during construction. The same tracks were later added as a design element. The greenery simulates the High Line’s abandoned days.

Manhattan's High Line park offers exceptional views of the West Side. This image shows people enjoying a traffic-light's-view in an area of the park that sits directly over Tenth Avenue. A series of wooden benches descend toward large viewing windows that allow the public to watch the traffic on the street.

The High Line’s “Tenth Avenue Square” has amphitheater-style seating that gives you a traffic-light’s-view of vehicles moving north along 10th Ave. Its 10th Ave. & 17th Street location, near the High Line’s mid-point, makes it a great place to relax.


The High Line's 2nd section, which opened in June 2011 in Manhattan, New York, has a lawn section where visitors can sit, relax and even sleep on the grass. This image shows people doing all of the above near one of the modern steel and glass buildings that have sprung up in the surrounding neighborhood. The High Line is a park built on an abandoned elevated railway.

What happened to the city that never sleeps? These fine folks are enjoying some down time, up on the High Line’s 23rd Street Lawn, a 4,900 sq. foot grassy area. HL23, the interesting building in the background, keeps watch. It’s a 14-story condominium tower designed by architect Neil Denari. HL23= High Line at 23rd Street.

10th Avenue: Land Of Cowboys and Prairies

From 1847 to the 1930s, Manhattan’s West Side residents acted out a morbid ritual so often that 10th Avenue was known as “Death Avenue.” The ritual started each time someone was run over by the train traveling down the middle of the avenue.

A scream was usually followed by a thick thump. Feet rustled, windows went up, doors opened, horse carriages stopped. The sensitive covered their mouths and their children’s eyes.

Somewhere nearby, an old woman would invariably say, “I heard it clear as a bell. Pity. Who was it this time?

Everyone agreed that the middle of the street was no place for a train, but nobody did anything. The trains kept a’rollin’ and a’thumpin’ at street level for almost 100 years.

The city hired men on horseback to ride down 10th Ave. waving red flags and screaming something akin to, “Hey, you, get out of the way!” at pedestrians. These “West Side Cowboys” rode until the 1930s, when the High Line was built. No more trains on street level.

The High Line closed in 1980, a casualty of both the growing trucking business and New York’s declining industrial base. Wildflowers and tall grasses soon sprouted, living quiet, rent-free lives on Manhattan’s only prairie land. Birds, insects and the occasional late-night urban explorer also appreciated the solitude.

For the next 20 years, politicians and property owners jawboned in agreement about tearing it down. What nobody could agree on was who should pay for it. Politics.

Friends in High (Line) Places

The Meatpacking District, the neighborhood around the High Line’s southern section, was very different in the 1980s. By day, the stench of animal blood from dozens of meat wholesalers owned the cobblestoned streets. After sunset, the people that go bump in the night took over.

A cafe opened in the 1990s, then two. Restaurants, art galleries, fashion stores came next. All that eating, shopping and gallery-ing is tiring, so hotels went up. No-man’s-land was now hip.

Rents increased and interested parties tipped their noses up. The aroma of money now overpowered the stench of blood. The demolition ball swung closer to the High Line.

In 1999, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, two area residents, listened to their instincts: build a park on the High Line and the surrounding area will blossom. But how do you build a park out of old rails?

They were encouraged by Peter Obletz’s legal skirmishes in the 1980s that prevented the High Line’s destruction. Through Friends Of The High Line, the organization they founded, Hammond and David broadcasted their message using old techniques (cold-calling, flyers) and new ones (websites, email campaigns).

The Magic Wind of publicity blew toward Mayor Bloomberg, Kevin Bacon, Hillary Clinton and others who liked the idea. Phones rang, letters were written, meetings attended, donations received. Politics.

Between 1999 and 2009, their idea evolved from pie-in-the-sky to park-in-the-sky. The can do’ers had beaten the can’t do’ers. The underdog won. New York City won. Everyone who visits the High Line won.

Please see Getting To The High Line for public transportation options and elevator, restroom and bike rack locations.

The High Line, the park built on a railway that is one of New York City's newest attractions, is especially popular during warm weather. This image shows people enjoying a shallow pool of water to cool their feet.

Summer time and the livin’ is feetsie. (I know, that was bad). The High Line’s “Sun Deck Water Feature” cools and soothes feet during hot weather. This shallow pool is one of those “they thought of everything” details. The High Line was made possible by funds from New  York City, New York State, the federal government and private donations to “Friends of the High Line.”

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