The thought of living in New York City could trigger a stress migraine for me. While a visit is invigorating and culture-filled, the pace and the crowds are overwhelming at the same time. But, when I visit magical places like the High Line — I get it. I might even get a tinge of city envy and want to be a part of it too.
The High Line is a surreal walk above the concrete jungle, while still just a stairwell away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A visionary civic project, this linear park is a gem of urban planning and reclamation that runs 1.34 miles along the lower west side of Manhattan. Part botanical garden, part art space, and part town square, this former abandoned urban infrastructure has been reborn into a green space project that is conceptually intelligent and design savvy, while still maintaining a warm neighborhood feel.
The High Line is a public park in the meatpacking district of Manhattan that was originally built by the New York Central Railroad in 1929 to get dangerous freight trains out of the streets. Known as the West Side Line, the first trains ran in 1934, but as trucking industries took over the moving businesses, the trains stopped running in 1980.
In 1999, when the High Line was in danger of demolition, community residents Joshua David and
Robert Hammond formed Friends of the High Line to advocate for its preservation and reuse. And in 2002, the City of New York committed to transforming the rail line into a public park, maintaining it as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance and operations, they also developed public programming with a focus on art and botany.
The park runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. The first section of the High Line opened in 2009, a second section in 2011, and the final third section is scheduled to open in 2014 that will go from West 30th and West 34th Streets. It is open daily from 7 am to 10 pm, and the park can be reached through nine entrances, four of which are accessible to people with disabilities.
While it is much more relaxing to stroll through on a quieter afternoon, the energy and people-watching on a lovely fall visit when it was packed with visitors was enjoyable as well. With vendors selling their wares and art, foodie outposts selling delectable bites, and rolling wooden chaise lounges for resting weary feet, it is an ideal spot for both locals and tourists alike.
In addition to the picturesque naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks, there are also stunning views of the Hudson River, and integrated art installations to enhance and engage the uniqueness of the architecture and design.
Founded in 2009, High Line Art presents a diverse program of artwork and events including site-specific commissions, exhibitions, performances, video programs and billboard interventions. An urban theater at 10th Avenue and 17th Street provides a window over the traffic below, as well as a performance space for musicians and artists, and also serves as a prime example of arts integration into architecture and neighborhood that the High Line emphasizes.
Highlights from my recent visit include the multi-colored window glass installation between West 15th and West 16th “The River That Flows both Ways” by Spencer Finch that represents a hue from photographs of water taken during a 700-minute joinery on the Hudson River. I also really liked Andra Ursata’s “Busted: Nose Job,” a giant marble nose sitting in a wheelbarrow in the gardens, representing defaced monuments.
And while these official commissions of high art are lovely, the grassroots arts sales and performances that are welcomed by the park add another layer of culture and interactivity with the local community as well. We paid for Shakespeare by Request from Will, a local actor, and I purchased a pinhole photo from an artist that created a camera from a small black box.
Visiting the High Line is not to be missed on any visit to the Big Apple. Wear your walking shoes and plan to do the full mile (soon to be longer). With the Chelsea Market nearby, you can make it an afternoon of iconic New York destinations. It is spots like this that make New York City one of the best places to visit in the world.
More information http://www.thehighline.org