Today, it’s The High Line in New York City, a 1.45-mile-long elevated park on the west side of lower Manhattan, reclaiming an old freight rail line from Gansevoort Street through Chelsea to 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues (map here). It opened in 2009, with additional phases opening in 2011 and 2014. There are 300+ species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees planted in the park, with benches and risers to rest on, artwork and graffiti — as well as interesting architecture and the Hudson River — to gaze upon, and docents to provide information. It’s one of my favourite destinations in the city now.
I’ve walked the High Line in March, June, and November. I imagine that in the middle of the summer it’s quite crowded, but when I’ve been there, it’s been perfectly peopled: not too many, but enough to keep it from feeling deserted. It feels to me like an escape, a secret, nostalgic world overlooking an anxious, vibrant, modern urban landscape, slightly at a distance from ordinary concerns and schedules. Whereas on most sidewalks in New York, people rush madly headlong (I do), on the High Line most people stroll, like Parisians along the Seine (I imagine). Like other gardens open to the public, it’s heterotopic: time slows down here, there is a sense of spaciousness in this narrow, linear park, a feeling of being between worlds, inhabiting a place that’s not quite real, that doesn’t connect smoothly with the places around it — all the more so because it is elevated, must be reached by climbing stairs or taking an elevator, overlooks but doesn’t intersect with the busy avenues and waterway.
Here’s a sense of the layout and span:
And of the art, advertising, architecture, and other things to look at:
Of course, train tracks:
And the plantings:
Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.