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Neighborhood Guide: High Line


It had been talked about and hoped for and argued over and hinted at for so long, it sometimes felt like it might never happen at all; that the creaky old elevated railway, snaking its way above and beside 10th Avenue, would remain abandoned for another 30 years.But it did happen, the High Line, opening just before the summer, and it is a spectacular success. Sometimes, it seems, urban-planning dreams really do come true.

 

There is much to love about this first leg of the park, which runs from Gansevoort to 20th Streets, because clearly a lot of love went into it. The High Line’s main pathway is made up of rough-hewn concrete planks, which often break up, branch out and burrow into the wild grasses and meadow flowers flanking your passage. The old train tracks—once used for freighting meat and other goods–have been left in place in many sections, adding a sense of history, and industrial decay.

The seating is beautifully designed, and comes in many guises, from the slatted benches with concrete ramps to the coveted wooden lounge chairs (and sectionals!), on wheels, attached to the track. If you push them, they’ll move, but only about a foot. The most delightfully unexpected moment is when a piece of the park veers off and dips down into an amphitheater of sorts, looking out and hovering over the traffic on 10th Avenue.

The lighting, too, is all very pretty and interesting, and it’s mostly installed at about waist-level and below, illuminating your way, spotlighting the gardens, without overpowering the beautiful views of the city lights. Also noteworthy: the High Line cuts through several building along the way, including the spanking-new Standard Hotel, offering cooling, cavern-like respites on hot sunny days.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the whole experience of High Line is strangely, wonderfully calming—the city is still there, and very close at hand, but it’s all somehow muted, like it can get during a heavy snow. This is a truly exceptional addition to the neighborhood’s—and the city’s–character, its landscape, its life.

The High Line is currently open between Gansevoort and 20th Streets, and can be accessed at those two spots as well as on 14th, 16th, and 18th Streets, all on 10th Avenue. There is an elevator at both the 14th and 16th Street entrances. The park is open from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily.

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