The High Line – a rail line that once brought trains to warehouses and factories – carried its final train of frozen turkeys in 1980. By the end of the twentieth century it became considered an unwelcome sight – an old ruin that was spoiling the view of developing Chelsea district. The city government was only too eager to start its demolition. But two New Yorkers who saw artistic potential of the High Line – Robert Hammond and Joshua David – envisioned a very different prospect for it. They slowly attracted supporters of the High Line preservation effort and formed Friends of the High Line. The donations they were able to collect were staggering – over 20 million dollars. Luckily, Mayor Bloomberg, Giuliani’s successor, had sympathies towards the city culture and proposed 112.2 million dollars towards the cost of a complete remodeling of the High Line, which in the end totaled over 150 million. World famous architects entered the competition for the design of the High Line.
In 2009 the construction of the High Line was over and it was opened to public. Today it is an elevated park, part botanical garden, 25 feet above the ground and almost 1.5 miles long. The park is carefully planned out to reflect the natural weeds and flowers that used to grow on the abandoned line. Narrow passages between the buildings, decorated with densely planted wildflowers, trees, and weeds, alternate with open lawns and vast promenades with views of the surrounding city and spectacular buildings. It has become one of the most peaceful urban refuges. I entered the High Line on 31st Street and walked all the way to 14th – without traffic lights, crazed passersby, or city rush.
Think there is always a ton of people here? You bet there is! But the people walking by me were not the same kind you’d normally see on the street, aggravated and rushing somewhere. These were relaxed and smiling New Yorkers and tourists, taking their time to absorb the atmosphere, watch the city below, and admire the architectural masterpieces. Only one person yelled at me! Well, he was painting, and I snapped a photo with a flash – didn’t notice it go off. Don’t get delusional – it is still New York.
In just a distance of 17 blocks I experienced New York from different perspectives and time periods. There is an array of buildings ranging from the oldest Episcopal Seminary in the United States to the headquarters of Diane Von Furstenberg, to Frank Gehry’s renown IAC building. One of the most famous structures in the world surround the High Line.
There is a strong cultural presence of Manhattan as we know it on the High Line – free-spirited and avant-garde – where you can find a sign warning about the encounter of nude bathers, a realistic human statue that everyone believes is a person, and artists, hoping that Whitney will one day welcome them too…
Enjoy your visit! Then let me know what you thought.
One of the entrances to the High Line is on 30th Street & 10th Avenue, and another on Washington Street & Gansevoort Street.
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Yours, Natasha Pea.