I climb the steps at the Gansevoort Street end of the mile long raised and meandering High Line Park cum walkway and I am in for a surprise. This was no defunct freight train track cantilevering directly into factories of the crowded Meat Packing and Chelsea districts but a transformed aerial greenway beginning from the Meatpacking district or MePa with its cobbled streets and some of the best eating places of New York (Spice Market), through bohemian Chelsea with its art galleries and restaurants, the major section is in Chelsea, onto the southern part of Hells Kitchen/Clinton and running around the West Side Rails between 10th and 12th Avenues and 30th and 33rd streets. Whats important is that the High Line is wheel chair accessible and there are elevators at certain points and this accounts for the steady stream of nearly 2000 visitors annually.
It is mid afternoon and the direct sun is no deterrence to tourists and New Yorkers reveling in the implanted ambience of nearly 210 plant species shaded by the glitzy and constantly changing city skyline. Glimpses of the placid Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and the cliffs of New Jersey on the opposite side suggest spaciousness. The birch and Ipe benches strategically placed along the track are welcome relaxing breaks and the cache of water above 14th street adds to the holiday spirit with children, old and young frolicking in the foot high water. It is a perfect setting for a hot day.
I follow the crowd on this promenade-and-town square fusion through the bends and turns dotted with sun decks, Art Deco railings, burnt sienna grass and profusion of flowers. At some point the High Line tunnels under three different buildings to open up into an amphitheater suspended over 10th Avenue. From far one assumes that there is some activity going on and coming closer it is families and loners enjoying mini picnics, listening to music or just gazing onto the street below. The second section, north of 20th Street, is a landscaped ambience of flowers and grass and another sitting area.
The High Line started out as a community preservation project to save an abandoned railway track and it has worked. The elevated train tracks and the once dubious havens along its periphery are bustling tourist hot spots imbibing the hues of the city with designer stores, boutique and designer hotels, an example the aerodynamic glass façade of the Neil Denari designed HL23 condominium on 23rd street, newly opened outdoor roller skating rink, restaurants, art galleries and artists studios. Viewed from the streets of West Chelsea the High Line is another conspicuous art hunk in the midst of brown stones and traffic.