New York really does feel like the city that never sleeps; constant traffic, bright lights, and swarming sidewalks surround you wherever you go. However, there is one place that has become a popular tourist attraction and a relief from the buzz of the city – the New York High Line Park.
The High Line is actually an old elevated freight rail line that has been transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Many of the old tracks remain on the 1 mile linear park that runs 30ft above ground from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.
It’s easy to see why it is so popular – raised up above street level the city takes on a new dimension, taking you high above the concrete jungle and transporting you into a man-made one with lush flower beds, manicured lawns and leafy green trees. As an observer it is a fantastic place to stop, rest and literally watch the world go by beneath your feet.
It was long time coming though; a community organisation called ‘Friends of the High Line’ fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation into a ‘park in the sky’ when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition in the 1990s. The High Line itself was originally built in the 1930s as part of a sizeable 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 where accidents where common.
After many years of campaigning, planning and work, the Park’s first section opened to the general public in 2009, followed by the second in 2011 and it now draws visitors from far and wide. Around 20,000 people visit the space every weekend.
The trail route of the High Line offers a logical path that takes you through benched area, lawns, flower beds and an ‘urban theater’ that offers a view through a large window onto the road below. Surrounding you, on a clear day, visitors can see everything from the Hudson River and New Jersey, to the Empire State Building.
It has become well known as well for its art installations, with public commissions chosen for their creative ways of engaging with the architecture, history, and design of the High Line, as well the surrounding urban landscape.It is a hot spot for artists in person too; walking the High Line you see many sketch-pads and easels detailing the inspiring and unusual views provided.
If you are looking for a place to grab a snack or enjoy lunch, you needn’t come down either. A range of vendors offering a wide variety of food and drinks can be found daily between Little West 12th and West 18th Streets.
If you have a camera to hand, the Park makes for some great photograph opportunities too. When I visited in April, the tree blossom was a beautiful sight in contrast with the buildings around.
The park is free to enter, and can be accessed from a variety of points along the route with a number of these also being wheelchair accessible. It is open from 7am to 11pm daily, allowing you to experience it in the day and at night in a different light. With building work on the third and final section, the Rail Yards, due to be completed next year, the Park promises to offer even more treats to its visitors shortly.
If you are looking for some fresh air in New York City, and want something a little bit out of the ordinary, then the High Line will be just the place for you! More information and a map can be found at www.thehighline.org.