Talk about recycling! How about giving an elevated railway a second life and making that right of way more alive than it has ever been. New York City has a new park and it makes for a pretty fascinating walk. It's not the first time a railway found a second life as a "nature walk" but the scenery is a bit different. These are not my photos. They are a nostalgic look back in time from the Highline Homepage.
What could be more suiting for a city famous for walking than a linear park? If there are two things New Yorkers like it is to keep moving and getting noticed. Well the High Line already has its first Star Is Born Story and there will be more to come.
So if you feel like taking a stroll along the High Line with me, below the fold are some thoughts on and photos from my first experience in New York City's newest park.
From the first announcement of High Line Park native New Yorkers were very excited. Especially old time New Yorkers like myself. I don't think too many people think of New York City in line with its old reputation but for me elevated roadways brings up a morning in the 1970's when a garbage truck fell through the old elevated West Side Highway and then after the road was closed, just standing there like a ghost from the past. I can't remember how many years it stood there as a homeless shantytown with a river view. I remember the highway was still standing there when Dan Rather was assaulted in the shadow of that ghost highway, the "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" assault.
The Renascence of Manhattan's West Side began a long time ago and New York no longer needs to be embarrassed about the treatment of our waterfront property. Now adding this new park seems like the icing on the cake.
But there is another reason, an even deeper reason than civic pride. The High Line just feels right. When the trains stopped running nature took its course. For years this line was not an elevated railway, it was an elevated meadow. When they were planning on tearing it down, it felt to everyone like ripping another slice of nature away from the Manhattan landscape. It is not the least bit surprising that the final design for this new park doesn't look much different from the days when some people claimed it was an eyesore.
If you would like to see the history of the High Line from when it began as a elevate railroad in the 1930's to last month when Section 1 (from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street) opens to the public, click here. Eventually this miracle park will run from the Meatpacking district up to 30th street.
Just a political note before my glowing review on the newest joy of New York. All of the neighborhoods the High Line goes over have no mass transit. The birth of the High Line dates back to the mid 1980's when a man named Peter Obletz who was a Chelsea resident and an activist, challenges demolition plans in court and tries to re-establish rail service on the Line.
In 1982, he ventured onto a section of abandoned elevated rail line that had once run from the old Washington Market in lower Manhattan to Spuyten Duyvil at the northern end of the island. The line once carried freight cars loaded with produce, meat, fabrics and newsprint to wholesale markets and factories in Harlem and the West Side, but it carried its last train -- three box-cars of frozen turkeys -- in April 1980.
In 2009 the New Yorkers who are so proud of their green activities are forced rely on taxicabs for service and the traffic congestion in these neighborhoods comes mostly from these cabs and NYC tow trucks prowling for some moneymakers. While the city will open a Second Avenue Subway, that was being built for over eighty years, in 2013, there isn't even a subway for the West Side river front area in the planning stages.
Almost every New Yorker takes great pride in our ecological footprint. On a morning walk before the recycle pick-up, looking into the clear blue bags shows enormous participation. Almost forgotten now is the fact that Mayor Bloomberg, who is running for a third term because he overturned a voter referendum, is one of his very first moves as mayor. The event was a very good example of people powered politics. When Bloomberg originally purchased the office of the mayor, one of his first strokes of the pen was to end the New York City recycling program. He used the power of his media empire to convince New Yorkers that recycling should end because "it cost too much" but New Yorkers were not buying it and recycling came back very quickly.
This Greenbelt serves as an inspiration but don't give the government credit. The High Line is also a people powered politics story. While you know that Bloomberg showed up at the ribbon cutting ceremony to take as much credit as he could get, the gift of the High Line came from New Yorkers outside of government. The government did eventually make a financial commitment but the credit goes to the Friends of the High Line.
The Hudson River that can be viewed from many places on the High Line may flow both ways but Manhattan flows up, so I guess the beginning is down in the meatpacking district at Gansevoort Street.
New Yorkers might be snobbish about many things but the High Line has already become a hometown warm fuzzy. I understand there are still some butchers in that district but while the neighborhood can still be identified by the building awnings that once protected slabs of beef from the hot sun, these flowers viewed from the High Line show the pride of ownership that the new park dynamic has already influenced.
A neighborhood that has gone through many changes since the days when everybody was dressed in bloody aprons. Now the meatpacking district is far closer to the way it was depicted in "Sex in the City" when Samantha was moving on up by purchasing an apartment there. But there are other little things about this once exclusively industrial area that give it a special flavor.
At the time the butchers were getting their act together and taking it on the road, no longer starving artist were looking for something more spacious than SoHO and they bought many of the garages that once stored meat trucks. Now in this fashionable district between better restaurants and expensive furniture stores, independent galleries thrive where blood once flowed.
The High Line was always an industrial railroad. You can see in this picture that the freight line that once ran all the way up to the northern tip of Manhattan, once ran right into this Washington Market building.
Once you go up the stairs you can still find evidence of the of the park's roots. Here 's some tracks with the remains of old Pier 54 in the background. Long forgotten by many, that shell of a once vibrant pier marks the spot where the RMS Carpathia docked with all 705 of the Titanic's survivors. It was also where The RMS Lusitania left from in 1915 before being torpedoed and becoming the rallying cry for American involvement in World War I.
Flowers now grow where the trains once ran.
In some places the contrast between the industrial roots and the new elevated parkway is striking.
But looking out beyond the park is what makes it so special.
Looking back toward Gansevoort Street with someone giving the High Line tight rope walk a try.
Besides running over Manhattan the High Line also runs underneath buildings. The first breezeway walking north is the Standard Hotel that already has a reputation with the peeping toms and the hotel is already attracting an increase in bookings from exhibitionist. The hotel is actually marketing itself as a sex hotel.
We love hotel sex, and The Standard Hotels have always been all about it. From the vitrine with the naked lady laying inside at The Standard, Hollywood to the private beds on the rooftop of The Standard, Downtown LA, it's all about voyeuristic sex. And now, the floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking The Highline at The Standard, New York offer direct views to your most intimate moments. New York Magazine covered the public sex most precisely.
With the Standard being on Little West Twelfth Street this all seems sort of fitting since The Hellfire Club that Mayor Koch closed down for our own good was on Thirteenth Street and made many New Yorkers aware of the meatpacking district, well kinky New Yorkers. And look the Hellfire is back in the saddle again!
If you feel a bit hungry while walking up there it might be because where the sidewalks meet meadows it sort of looks like the tines of many forks.
The next breezeway is a work in progress. I don't know what it will become but it makes for a photogenic look back in time and a real cool down on a hot day.
Yea, checking out all of the pretty young ladies doesn't suck neither.
There was a piece in The New York Times this week. Park Is a Railway Out of Manhattan claims that The High Line has already become Main Street, New York.
It even inspires crusty New Yorkers to behave as if they were strolling down Main Street in a small town rather than striding the walkway of a hyper-urban park — routinely smiling and nodding, even striking up conversations with strangers.
Hey who are they calling "Crusty" but after spending a day up there I could not agree more. While the park implies there is someplace to go everyone is hanging around chewing the fat and just try getting from one end to the other without a few hundred "Hellos." Better yet, put a confused look on your face and see how fast New Yorkers are falling all over themselves to point you the the restroom or nearest ice cream cone.
I never had so many friendly conversations in one day in my life. Here's a fellow New Yorker who actually sort of reminded me of dadanation. It just didn't feel like New York City when he decided we should converse about and take photos of each other just because we have the same model camera!
I think the High Line might be having an effect on the New Yorkers down below at street level too.
I suspect that the High Line will become a victim of its own success and the views will become fewer and fewer as the area develops but the next section, a river view sunset area does have a view secured by a proximity to West Street and a park between the the High Line and the Hudson.
This area is called the Sunken Overlook. This High Line centerpiece that is called 10th Avenue Square, stands above a neighborhood divide. Although the neighborhoods blend together nicely, the Square that marks where the Meatmarket becomes Chelsea, is a section where the park divides into into an underused lower rail bed that stands just above the traffic.
As you can see maceration is perfectly wicked. The further from the traffic, the more popular the walk way.
The upper area has already become a central plaza for the High Line. The lower areas dampens the noise from the street below and the open space with rows of amphitheater-style wooden beach chairs welded to the old rails offers a perfect place to see or be seen.
Facing east are views of another neighborhood signature, the many covered bridges that run from building to building.
As you look to the west, this promenade has a perfect sunset view or it can be a place to relax and watch the river flow by.
The next covered area is right above another innovative recycle of a former industrial area,The Chelsea Market. It was very popular in yesterday's heat. This is the place to go for those ice cream cones.
Already acting as a semi indoor picnic area the enclosure raises the levels of many voices and the open walk transforms to an enclosed party atmosphere.
There are windows that are suppose to reflect the many colors of the Hudson River, one pixel at a time. An indoor outdoor art project called The River That Flows Both Ways.
After leaving the last covered section of the High Line can be seen a place I found to be very special. Another section where the railroad ran into a building is not yet developed as a public area. Being a life long New Yorker who has been up there back when it was trespassing I recognized this area as a reflection of what the rail line became when it was first abandoned. A celebration of vegetation where plants once took over before parkland. I think they should leave it that way as an example of the midlife of the High Line.
The last gathering place before the stretch to 20th Street has a view of the anchor of west side riverfront development, the Chelsea Piers. It also offers an opportunity to the jock that wants to strut his or her stuff. The Equinox Fitness Club has a window to the High Line.
It seems very crowded but there are little nooks and crannies with funky benches for some intimate personal contact.
Even room for lovers.
Across from the open views of the Chelsea_Piers there is a more traditional amphitheater than the sunken overlook. When I was there the entertainment was recycling entertainment, musicians that make their instruments out of discarded household items.
As oppose to the river view of the ipe wood lounge chairs at the sunken overlook, the glass beyond this ipe wood amphitheater offers a view up 10th Avenue for watching the traffic flow.
Behind the overhead audience is a building that is becoming my favorite new riverfront architecture, the IAC building.
I think it is suppose to be a cloud ship or something.
The last big curve before the final run up to the end of the line.
The last straight run that goes through the interior of blocks between Tenth Avenue and West Street.
Before getting to the end I had to take the stairs at 18th Street for a piece of personal history. The building with the awning was once the Roxy. Back in the day, the Disco day, I could often be found at this elevated Roller Skating next to the elevated rail line. It is gone now but when I went searching for information, I was surprised to see how long it lasted.
The end of the line.
But not for long. The park will soon stretch up to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.