The Best Things in Life Are Free – Even in the Big Apple
A public park 1.45 miles long and 30 feet in the air? This could only happen in NYC. The first time I visited the High Line, it was a definite WOW! experience.
This intoxicating cocktail of engineering, architecture, landscaping, imagination and lots of money runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.
But the High Line didn’t begin its life as a park. During the first third of the 20th century, collisions between freight trains and automobiles were increasing with such alarming frequency that by the late 1920’s, something had to change. So the freight line that served Manhattan’s industrial West side had nowhere to go but up.
In 1934, the High Line opened, and trains were able to move unimpeded right through the warehouses and manufacturing plants they served. Motorists rejoiced, and all went well for a couple of decades. Then along came a rapid growth in interstate trucking, and the entire High Line system chugged to a halt in 1980.
By 1999, the High Line faced demolition, but area residents, celebrities, lovers of the Big Apple, preservationists and politicians looking for a safe cause to support united to secure a new incarnation for the High Line. Plans took shape to create something that could be enjoyed by New Yorkers and tourists alike – and it would be Free.
So it came to pass that in 2009, the first section of the three-part High Line project opened to the public. What is the High Line like today? From my perspective, it’s pure enjoyment, and here are just a few of the reasons why:
- It makes a pleasant walk from end to end
- People have plenty of room to move around
- Planters, benches and chairs line the sides
- There is a lawn area for sunbathing, picnics, and just plain relaxing
- People-watching can be done from two vantage points – look around you, then look down
- Children have a playground to keep them occupied and amused
- You can take in an unobstructed view of the Hudson River in the middle distance
- People seem a lot more friendly where there’s no traffic
- It’s wheelchair accessible with elevators at several access points
- You can find all sorts of things to eat and drink within some of the buildings through which the High Line runs, or bring your own
- Smoking is prohibited
It looks as though the High Line will be on my must-visit list every time I’m back in New York. And when the WOW! wears off, as it is bound to eventually do, the High Line will still be up there on my list of feel good places to go.
To learn more about the High Line, go to http://www.thehighline.org