For someone who has lived nearly her whole life in the backyard of the world’s most famous city, I hardly ever write about New York City. Maybe it’s the fact I’ve lived near it my whole life and it’s always been there–the familiar concrete jungle I have never been entirely comfortable with. Recently I have been trying to make an effort to get out of Midtown Manhattan (and away from the tourist hordes in Times Square which to my great chagrin is right by my office) and explore the different neighborhoods in Manhattan. One of those places I have become fascinated with is the High Line.
The High Line is an elevated freight rail line that runs above the Manhattan streets that has been refurbished into an urban park. Originally built in the 1930s, the train tracks were elevated off the street where they used to run in the 1800s because they posed a serious safety hazard. The freight trains running on the elevated tracks mostly delivered meat, produce, and other goods to factories and warehouses in the Meatpacking District (where there used to be a lot of slaughterhouses, hence the name) and were sometimes able to roll directly into the buildings, thereby eliminating the traffic-related accidents they used to cause when the trains were on the streets.
The elevated freight rail line remained in operation until 1980 and then was subsequently abandoned until the mid 1990s. When the train tracks came under the threat of demolition, a group of residents from the surrounding neighborhood established an association, Friends of the High Line, to preserve the structure and to re-purpose the elevated rail line into a public park. The preservation efforts by Friends of the High Line paid off and in July 2009 the first section of the elevated track opened to the public for the first time. Since then, other sections of the track have been redesigned and opened to the public and construction is still ongoing to reopen the last few sections of the park. For more information about the park, I suggest reading the FAQ on its official website–it’s a good read.
I love everything about the High Line–from the views of the city from the elevated track to the way it was redesigned, including the rotating open air art exhibitions and the way the tracks were incorporated into its landscape. I also think it has the greatest logo–an H with an equal sign running through its middle to represent the tracks. It’s an incredibly clever design, understated and simple yet to the point.
The High Line is currently about one and a half miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side, offering views of the Hudson River as it cuts through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhoods. In some cases, the park burrows right underneath some of the buildings such as the Standard Hotel and the old Nabisco Factory. In my opinion, what makes the park exceptional is the unique perspective visitors gain of New York City from its height.
It sounds a little ridiculous, but you miss so much of your surroundings if you are only ever looking straight ahead as you walk along the sidewalk. People never think to stop and look up to see what is around them, but let’s be honest–you simply can’t do that in New York City. Its frenetic pace won’t allow it. But the High Line does. You can stop and look around at your leisure. Observe. Sit down. Talk. Reflect. Each time I go, I discover a whole new side to New York City that I didn’t even know existed.
This part of the rail line probably allowed trains at one time to roll right into the building to deliver its goods.
Part of a permanent exhibition called “The River Flows Both Ways” located under a building at the Chelsea Market Passage.
Another really cool feature of the park. This is an “urban theater” with steps that let people sit down and rest. There are also glass windows overlooking the street with a view of traffic and the street as the “show.” The yellow billboard in the back says “WTF is alternate side of the street parking anyway?”
The plants and trees have been carefully arranged around the park, but it does kind of look like these trees are reclaiming what is man-made.
An elevated sculpture located off the High Line. It reminded me of a Google Doodle.
Part of the “Busted” art exhibition currently displaying. You can learn more about the High Line art exhibitions here.
The lawn here was cordoned off because the crocuses were just starting to peak up from the soil. The white wavy looking building to the left is known as HL23 and widens as it gets taller. It was specifically built with the High Line in mind. In fact, all future construction projects to the side of the High Line will probably adhere to a certain look to keep in line with the park’s urban aesthetic.
Mural of a now very iconic New York moment which took place at the end of WWII in Times Square created by the Brazilian mural artist Eduardo Kobra. Click here to learn more about his art–he has a very distinct style that is represented through all his murals.
While the unprecedented views of the surrounding cityscape are unparalleled, what’s it like to actually live in an apartment which gives visitors direct access into your home at all hours of the day? Residents who live right next to the High Line have been asked if the park feels like an invasion of privacy, considering there is a constant parade of people walking by their windows all day. This New York Times article offers a glimpse of what it is like to live in close quarters with the park and the answers may surprise you.
In the short time since it has opened, the park has become extremely popular. Whenever visitors ask me what sights I recommend to see in NYC, I always immediately answer first, “The High Line. You must go. You will love it.” So far, everybody I have recommended the park to has loved it. And best of all? It’s completely free.
Sunset on the Hudson River.
You can access the park from several entry points which are all listed here. Certain entrances have elevators meaning the park is also wheelchair accessible. If you are planning a visit to NYC, skip whatever exorbitantly priced sight you planned on seeing (and Times Square, it’s really not that cool) and visit the High Line.
That’s an order.