photos by Jessica Hill/Journal Inquirer
Take a walk on the High Line, a new park in NYC’s Chelsea section
NEW YORK — Smiling, relaxed, happy people are not the type of folks one usually thinks of when one thinks of New York City inhabitants.
But along the new High Line Park, 30 feet above the ground, locals as well as visitors in the vibrant Chelsea section revel in this world removed from the hubbub of the city below.
The High Line was a freight line originally built in the 1930s to move dangerous freight trains off of the street level, according to its website. It carried meat to the Meatpacking District, as well as other items, and was in operation until 1980.
This lovely new park might not have existed at all if it weren’t for some forward-thinking individuals. The rail lines were slated for demolition, when in 1999 “Friends of the High Line” a nonprofit group was formed by local residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond to preserve the historic site.
The city of New York works in conjunction with the “Friends of the High Line” to maintain and preserve the structure.
The first section of the park, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened in 2009 and is open year round, with extended summer hours from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Park a “must see”
Sarah and Alex Berry of Leeds, England, were sitting on a park bench enjoying the spring sunshine at the High Line Park on a recent Friday.
The couple were in New York City on their honeymoon, and had heard about the High Line Park from some friends who told them it was a “must see.”
“Being here is the only place in the city that literally lifts you up,” Alex Berry said. On the streets of New York, everyone seems so serious and in a hurry to get somewhere, he said, but on the High Line “no one looks very serious.”
It’s true. People were casually meandering about, taking photos of the early spring tulips and daffodils blooming and cherry and dogwood trees blossoming among the old rail line, eating cupcakes, talking, and laughing.
Sarah Berry commented on the buildings surrounding the park, saying that they aren’t as tall as the skyscrapers in mid-town, and are far more architecturally interesting.
World renown architect Frank Gehry’s amazing white curved building, the IAC headquarters, can be seen from one vantage point and the Empire State Building can be seen from another, thanks to the smaller buildings along with the heightened views from the park.
Chad Helmer and Ashley Robinson, who live in the city, were also sitting on a bench chatting on a recent Friday afternoon, soaking up some rays.
“It’s really cool what they did,” Helmer said. “I come here to relax. It’s a great place to get some sun.”
Robinson said she is a teacher and some of her fellow teachers use the park as a learning opportunity. They bring their students here on field trips to identify the plants growing in the park.
Art installations abound
This being New York, there are free art installations at various spots along the path. One is a viewing station by artist Richard Galpin that distorts the optical perspective when viewed through a metal cube, which emphasizes geometric forms, with nods to early 20th century Cubism and Futurism.
Another art installation, by Stephen Vitiello, is in the 14th Street passage. In this partially enclosed, acoustically resonant space, one of 59 city sounds goes off each minute. Sounds include the Aquaduct Race Track gate opening, and the Coney Island Dreamland Bell. Then at the top of each hour they all go off contemporaneously in a blare of sound that is oddly harmonic and unexpected.
A flat, long water feature traveling over concrete adds a lovely trickling ambiance and peaceful sound farther south along the High Line Park, with a stunning western view at the Hudson River and the setting sun.
Another viewing stage with benches situated like an auditorium is also a fun place to sit and watch the world go by. It has a glassed off partition, allowing people to stop, sit, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of traffic along 10th Avenue.
Climbing the metal staircases to get to the park is an aerobic workout all by itself, but they also have handicap-accessible elevators at the 14th and 16th Street entrances. Once at the park, the walk is relatively straight and flat.
There are tables and chairs in addition to the permanent benches in the park, and vendors and artisans sell their wears in booths along the way too.
Because of the delicate nature of the plants, no dogs, skates, skateboards, recreational scooters, or bicycles are allowed in the park.
At the southern end of the park New York City residents Jeanette Herrera and Manny Largo said they enjoyed being there because of the quiet and the view. Largo said especially at night it is lovely, and you can even see a few stars in the sky.
“The night view is really nice,” Largo said, adding that they sometimes offer in stargazing programs at the park.
The park is free and open daily from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., closing at 8 p.m. in the winter.
The second section beyond of 20th Street is scheduled to open any day now and will extend the park to 30th Street, with a third and final section to the Clinton section of town to follow. When completed it will be about 1 ½ miles long.
For more information, visit its website: www.thehighline.org