Walking on New York’s greenery-lined linear park, a triumph of urban design
The High Line was built along Manhattan’s west side in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project that elevated freight trains 30 feet above the streets of what was then Manhattan’s largest industrial district. Its history reflects the industrialization and de-industrialization not just of New York but other American cities too. As urban manufacturing all but disappeared, the rail line became obsolete. No trains have run there since 1980, and the infrastructure was threatened with demolition. Meanwhile, the dim streets and sidewalks under the elevated tracks were really creepy.
The infrastructure has come to life again, thanks to the Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line work in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. Construction began in 2006. The first section between Gansevoort Street and West 20th Street opened in June 2009, and the second between West 20th Street and West 30th Street opened earlier this year. Think of it as the urban counterpart to a rural Rails to Trails project — but without bikes.
New York’s newest park is also its most creative, taking an industrial wasteland and turning it into a paved strip lined with trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, lawns, seating areas. In a part of the city that is especially starved for greenery and recreational space (Chelsea Piers notwithstanding), the High Line is a godsend.
Special events, including this summer’s train movies, are scheduled along The High Line, but mainly, it seems geared for locals and visitors to stroll between street and sky and breathe (relatively) clean air. The High Line measures out to just under 1½ miles. I wish it were longer, and I’ll bet the locals do too.