Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The High Line

On Friday after work I walked up to the High Line, the recently opened park built on a section of a former elevated freight railroad along the west side of Manhattan. It was originally built in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off the city streets and eliminate the frequent fatal accidents that occurred. It was active in use until the 1980s, after which it fell into disrepair, with wild grasses, flowers, and trees springing up along the railway. Over the past ten years support for the public redevelopment of the High Line for pedestrian use continued to grow until the southernmost section was reopened as a city park on June 8 of this year.

The High Line was bustling with people on that Friday afternoon, despite the ominous rain clouds (which never actually amounted to anything). There was a constant flow of foot traffic, and nearly all of the beautiful slatted wood benches and lounge chairs (amazing!) were occupied.

For some reason I hadn't realized that the design involved preserving much of the railroad tracks and native greenery, which, though wild, looks (and is) well cultivated and maintained.

One of the most interesting parts of walking the High Line is seeing things you wouldn't normally see--the tops of buildings, for one. I'm not sure what building this is but it is certainly odd that while this window was long-ago bricked up, the window pane was left to be shattered, by weather or vandals or all or none of the above. And I'm loving the spiky purple plants, whatever they are.

Another view of interesting rooftops and courtyards, with those pretty pink flowers and wild grass in the foreground.

A closer look reveals this amazing sight.

More rarely seen angles. I love the patterned iron of the trestle (see right above the grass).

A view of the Meatpacking District (not sure what street) from the High Line.

I think this might be the Chelsea Market. Either way, I love the way the windowpanes appear to turn different colors in the light.

The park is a really interesting place, both visually and historically, with such a great variety of sights to take in. But part of me wishes I had managed to check it out when it was just an abandoned elevated railway. While more dangerous (and, yes, illegal), there's a certain appeal in that, and while the designed public park is beautiful, and does preserve much of the original, I'm seeing a sanitized version of it. I would have loved to have seen the real thing. (Further research reveals that I missed my opportunity during Open House New York 2007. Poisonous plants and creosote and lead paint, oh my.)

Regardless, I'll definitely be back. It's about a 30 minute walk to the High Line and back from where I work. I think I'll be fitting in as many trips as I can!

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