Thursday, December 17, 2009

Take a walk with me on New York City's High Line

It's the hustle and bustle that attracts many people to the Big Apple, but one of the best New York City breaks to escape all of that — without leaving a couple of Manhattan's trendiest neighbourhoods — is the High Line.
The High Line was originally an elevated railway line built in the 1930s to take trains off streets and eliminate accidents, but had become an unused eyesore since the final locomotive (pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys) used it in 1980. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has now transformed it into a cutting-edge public park that offers excellent views of Manhattan and the Hudson River, even though it's only 30 feet off the ground.
While some of the railroad ties remain and add character, the safely lit High Line now also features concrete paths bordered with gardens and trees. There's also a water feature and fountains, commissioned artwork, a sun deck, restrooms and fixed and movable benches that allow you can sit and relax. If you want a snack, a limited number of regularly changing local vendors are permitted to sell their goodies.
One of the most intriguing parts of the High Line is 10th Avenue Square, which features stepped benches leading down to a viewing platform with a window that looks directly up the street.
Tours, lectures, performances and events are scheduled regularly for the security-patrolled structure.
The first section of the wheelchair-accessible High Line opened in June 2009 and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 20th Street between 10th and 11th avenues in Chelsea. It can be accessed along the route on 14th, 16th and 18th streets, with the first two of those having elevators.
A second section running to West 30th Street is expected to open sometime in 2010 and will include a lawn area for picnics. When the final section is added, the High Line will continue up to and around the West Side Rail Yards at West 34th Street by the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It will be 1.45 miles long at completion.
Old warehouses and factories in the surrounding former industrial area have been transformed into art galleries, design studios, stores, restaurants, museums, condominiums and apartments. The eco-friendly High Line should only inspire more positive development and make other local building owners take better care of the many rooftops people pass by while strolling its path.
About the only negative thing I can think of about the innovative High Line is that you can't walk dogs on it.
A similar rail viaduct has been converted into a park in Paris France called the Promenade Plantée. Similar projects are being developed in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, Chicago and Rotterdam. If Toronto's Gardiner Expressway is ever taken out of service, as some people would like to see, a High Line-like park would be a great use of part of it.
The High Line is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily during the winter and until 10 p.m. when the days get longer and warmer.
Take a walk north along the High Line with me with these photos I took in August:

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