Posted by: Dan Bergeson | November 20, 2011

Manhattan’s High Line City Park

I recently spent four days in New York City, most of it in residential Brooklyn, Park Slope to be exact. It was great seeing family and bonding again with our young granddaughter. On Sunday we went into Manhattan and headed for a new City Park that we’ve read a lot about. Weekend subway maintenance caused us some slight delays, but that’s another topic that I’m sure our hosts could go about on for hours.

The High Line City Park is a converted elevated railroad line that runs up the west side of lower Manhattan from just below 12th St. up to 30th. The el was an active freight line from 1934 to 1980 and then was abandoned and lay dormant for about 20 years. Initially, business interests in the area lobbied to have it demolished so that they could use the land underneath the line for development. Their efforts failed in the face of opposition from those who wanted to re-establish rail service. That goal wasn’t achieved either and it wasn’t until 1999 that the movement began to acquire the property and turn it into a public amenity.

The first section of the park opened in 2009 and the second section was completed earlier this year. It’s a remarkable piece of urban design and has many, many unusual features. It’s the first park that I’ve had to climb a flight of stairs to enter. There’s a horizontal waterfall and over 200 species of hardy plants throughout the length of the park. Some of the rail bed goes right through buildings and most of its route traverses the west side at mid-blocks, not over the avenues, so there are fascinating perspectives of the surrounding architecture. At one intersection an urban theatre was constructed so that park-goers can sit and watch the vehiclular traffic below.

Almost no crime has been committed in the park since its opening, but there have been several lawsuits from citizens who have fallen and broken bones. The walking surfaces  have uneven edges that require care in maneuvering. You need to keep your eyes open! I’ve read that the park has spurred economic development along its length and we observed lots of construction as former warehouses are gentrified into high-end retail.

The park was mobbed during the two hours we spent in it. I don’t know if that was typical or unusual, but I had the sense that it’s a draw for both residents and tourists alike. I highly recommend a visit the next time you’re in the City. In the meantime, take a tour of the album of photos I snapped.

Manhattan’s High Line Park

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