High Line Park In New York City
Out In the Wild, On the High Line
New York City History
High Line Park
High Line Park New York City
High Line Park was a discovery. In my early days living in New York City, driving down 10th Avenue, I always noticed the elevated tracks running parallel half-way down the block to 11th.
The tracks entered some buildings and had spurs running to others. There seemed to be the greatest nexus of connections around the old National Biscuit Company complex near 14th Street.
Then, the railroad just ended, like it dropped off a cliff where the West Side Highway made a swing passed Chelsea Piers toward the newer residential buildings downtown.
Later, the High Line just came to seem like one of those New York City relics that decayed until it became so decrepit and dangerous that arguments for tearing it down couldn't be resisted.
I remember walking underneath it one afternoon on my way to a meeting at Martha Stewart's operation in Chelsea, and it seemed ghostlike, the supporting structures rusting, the entire structure silent, forgotten.
Before I got around to investigating in detail, stories about the abandoned railroad began appearing in the local news. In the mid-1980s, a local activist, Peter Obletz, launched an effort save the structure from local businessmen lobbying to tear it down.
Obletz wanted to turn it into a park. His battle was a bit lonely, and the preservationist group, Friends of the High Line, didn't form until 1999. In 2002, city support was won, and the transition from ruin to prominent park began.
Running the Line Down Through Chelsea
Chelsea is a great neighborhood tourists seldom visit, full of graceful neighborhoods, art galleries, loft apartments, great dining and historical buildings like the still-standing NBC complex, part of which houses Chelsea Market.
(By the way, if you haven't seen Chelsea Market, you really haven't seen New York.)
Maybe High Line Park will bring visitors to New York City interested in something more historical than Macy's or bargain shopping around Union Square.
High Line Park runs from its northernmost entry point on 20th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, to a tree-filled terminus near 12th Street. A section extending it on up to 23rd Street is under construction. Be advised that the only elevator is at the 14th Street entrance. Enter anywhere else, and you will climb thirty feet, all stairs in some places with ramps in others.
The High Line was built in 1930 to eliminate the street level accidents that had earned 10th the title, "Death Avenue." It didn't stay active for long, losing traffic to the Interstate system as it was being built in the 1950s, much like the decline that hit the Erie Canal.
Being in the middle of an industrial area, it was mostly left to the whims of nature, even after the last traffic ended in 1980.
Fortunately, nature was kind, and with the revival of this western section of Chelsea, the industrial conduit turned neighborhood lounge has been reinvented. Visiting, one doesn't so much get a sense of traveling along an abandoned rail line as one of being raised above a busy city, free to stroll without waiting for crosswalks.
The views are magnificent. Look north from the elevated tracks of High Line Park and the Empire State Building rises above the midtown slope like a tribute to the expanding city that its construction honored.
Chelsea neighborhoods spread along tree-lined streets to the west, and opposite, the Hudson River and New Jersey beyond, appear between the buildings. Chelsea has been graced by much inventive new architecture in recent years, and the angular views from a third floor level are striking.
Many benches and lounging spaces have been build all along the park, and even amid the stream of visitors, apparently local residents can be seen reading their newspapers or books and sunbathing. The High Line offers a unique combination of neighborhood casualness and city chaos.
On the street, seen from the railroad, a variety of restaurants are busy, especially along 10th. Just a block from two entrances, Chelsea Market offers shopping and dining experiences you will not find elsewhere. An extraordinary, authentic Italian market can keep food lovers and cooks lingering over the variety.
High Line Park New York City and Beyond
All the great sites of New York City are still here. Times Square, made easier to stroll through by the Bloomberg Administration, is still a world class destination for shows and more, and Central Park seems to be made even more pleasant every year through the efforts of the Conservancy.
That said, however, if a visitor sees only the highlights, the amazing experience of Macy's or the Statue of Liberty, he or she will have missed much of the flavors that keep the rest us here and happy all year.
Our neighborhoods are the true stamp of New York. Visiting Chelsea and High Line Park would be a great place to start. You may even end up visiting other treasures like Carl Schurz Park or Arthur Avenue in The Bronx next time.
Beware, though - New York City neighborhoods can be addicting.
Views of The High Line
You may also like...
- The High Line
The official Web site of the High Line and Friends of the High Line
High Line Park Embedded in the City
There are entrances to the elevated park all along the way.
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© 2010 David Stone
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