Sunday, 18 October 2015

Revisiting the Highline

The High Line overlooks the meatpacking district in Chelsea
Four years ago my friend took me to see a cool community project called the High Line in the meatpacking district and wrote about it here.

It turns out the start or end of the High Line is at the Whitney and on my last day in New York I took a long stroll along it and was amazed to see how much it had grown the last time I was there.

Flowers are growing nicely in between the cracks
The grasses had grown much taller, and trees had created a natural canopy in parts, and more importantly the path had extended much further. It's not a place to run through, but to walk alone, or with people and meditate on the scenery in front of you.

There are a few stops along the High Line where people can get drinks and snacks. The coffee stand was quite popular, though the others selling empanadas, artisanal popsicles and ice cream sandwiches were quiet.

For souvenir hunters, the High Line has its own gift shop too, with proceeds going towards funding the maintenance of the park/path.

There's lots of green spaces making it a pleasant walk
A nearby plaque explained that the High Line was built between 1929 and 1934 by the New York Central Railroad to take dangerous freight trains off the streets. They carried meat, produce, and dairy products into warehouses and factories on the third floor, and were nicknamed the "lifeline of New York".

However eventually trucks replaced trains in transporting goods and by 1980, the Highline had stopped running. In 1999, the High Line was threatened with demolition and two friends set up the Friends of the High Line to save it.

In 2002 the local government took on the initiative and the High Line was inaugurated seven years later.

A patch of shrubs and flowers that has grown nicely
However it was a massive donation of $20 million from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation in 2011 that really gave the High Line a shot in the arm. Media mogul Barry Diller's offices in the Frank Gehry-designed IAC building is a stone's throw away from the park, while his fashion designer wife's studio and office is very close by.

The High Line is now a major tourist attraction, and on the day I went, a number of the people passing through were overseas visitors -- Italian was spoken a lot -- while some were locals preferring to take in some greenery on their walk, or avoiding the traffic below.

I walked all the way to around 34th Street by the docks to take in a view of the clouds threatening to take over the sky with rain. Only a few drops fell as somehow the winds managed to disperse the clouds to reveal some clear patches later in the day.

Yutaka Sone's depiction of Manhattan in marble
In one section is a massive marble sculpture -- of Manhattan! It's quite amazing to see it. Called Little Manhattan New York, New York (2007-2009) by Yutaka Sone,  it's a depiction of Manhattan in a nine-feet long piece of marble that captures everything within the two-year time period it was being created. You can't help but let your jaw drop seeing all the detail that went into this piece.

Not only is that amazing but also the fact that developers have quickly jumped in and built condos around the High Line to bump up prices. But do you want to live where people can walk by and look into your apartment? 

Nevertheless, can't wait to see what the High Line looks like the next time I come back!

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