Life on the High Line, New York: ‘Making something wondering for future generations’
The High Line was an unexpected surprise for me in New York. I’d vaguely heard about it, an old raised train track turned into a park, but I hadn’t quite realised what a special place it would be. It’s more than just a raised park; it’s a peaceful version of city life. It isn’t quite an escape from the city because you’re still in the thick of it, you’re just raised above it so you have an even better view but with none of the hassles of traffic or fellow pedestrians. You can even stop and admire the view through a huge picture frame that creates the perfect city view.
You’ll also find modern art and sculptures along the High Line as well as places to stop and rest your feet. There are urban flower gardens, sun loungers and I even saw a couple setting up a projector screen for a film they were showing that evening.
This was once a waste of space, an ancient structure replaced by modern technology. But it’s great to see that rather than just knocking it down it’s been used for something good. It’s a way to remember how New York used to be while accepting the change and viewing it from this advantageous point. I just hope they manage to some more urban renewal projects all over the world as successfully as the High Line.
If you aren’t familiar with the High Line, this is roughly what it says on a plaque along the line:
The High Line was built by the New York Central Railroad between 1929 and 1934 to lift dangerous freight trains from Manhattan’s streets. Originally extending down to the St. John’s Park terminal at Clarkson Street, the High Line was part of a much larger rail infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, which eliminated street-level train crossings from Spuyten Duyvil to Lower Manhattan. The high Line’s trains carried meat, produce and dairy products into warehouses and factories at the third-floor level so became known as the ‘life line of New York’.
For many years, the High Line was a vital part of the busy manufacturing landscape of the industrial West Side. However, as trucking began to replace rail as the primary means of moving freight, train traffic declined and the southernmost section was torn down. By 1980, the trains had stopped running.
What remained of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, was slowly taken over by self-sown landscape, showing the power of nature to conquer even monumental, man-made structures.
In 1999, with the High Line threatened with demolition, neighbourhood residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond formed Friends of the High Line to advocate for the preservation and reuse of the structure and it was transformed into a one-of-a-kind park.
Innovative design was central to the vision. The goal was to create a public landscape as unusual and unexpected as the High Line itself.
Tens of thousands of people have been part of the High Line’s transformation. This park embodies their dedication to New York City and their desire to make something wonderful for future generations.
I was visiting New York with American Express on a quest to find great customer service in the city. A walk along the High Line was recommended to me by virtually everyone so thanks to all my readers and friends in New York who suggested I visit.
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