The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. On a recent Sunday morning in New York, I walked the High Line, not really sure what it was, but intrigued.
The High Line travels up the west side of New York City, beginning from Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District and continuing up to West 34th Street. Built in the 1930s, the High Line was part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. In 1934, The High Line opened to trains, running from 34th Street to St. John’s Park Terminal, at Spring Street, connecting directly to factories and warehouses and allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods came and went without causing street-level traffic.
30 years after the High Line opened though, it was nearly defunct as a result of damage to part of the track and the growth of interstate trucking vs railroad transport and in 1980, the last train ran.
After laying in waste for nearly three decades, the first section of the High Line park opened in June 2009, with the second section opening in June 2011. Plans are in the works for further extensions.
On the sunny Sunday we walked the High Line from bottom to top and back. Spring blossoms were just opening and the day was warming up. As you walk along the High Line, you are able to look down into the neighborhoods below, offering a view from 30′ above. As it snakes and winds around buildings, there is always something to see. Buildings have been tended to and indeed, some look like art, with oxidized shingles and tromp l’oeil paintings, all part of the experience. And of course, the fun part is that you can see into apartments and get a sense of life in the city.
Along the route, there are benches and areas to sit and relax and enjoy the great work that the Friends of the High Line have done to preserve this peaceful space. And there are plenty of art pieces to savor and nooks and crannies to explore. We spent a leisurely couple of hours on the High Line soaking in the sun and the atmosphere, and capped it off with a long, lazy brunch at Barbutos – a perfect Sunday in the city.