I was glad we could go on a Saturday because at 11 a.m. the park provides a free guided tour. Here was our tour guide. A Fordham alumni:
In it's heyday, the High Line was referred to as the "lifeline of New York". The raised railroad was built to save lives and deliver food to the industrial district for almost 50 years. All the cool people (that I know) are talking about this railroad because two years ago the city transformed it from a rundown eyesore to a trendy public park.
I sold a visit to the High Line to Dominic like this: "It's a park. In the sky!" He was intrigued too so yesterday we spent the majority of the day wandering around the West side enjoying the beautiful weather and this unique urban revitalization project.
At first, people were really happy about the High Line being built. The announcement was made in 1929, and at that time it is said that something like three schoolchildren a week were being killed by the congestion of buggies, trains, and cars whizzing down the streets. The raised railroad would allow deliveries to come and go without crossing transportation paths on the ground. Some business owners were so happy they retrofitted their buildings to allow the tracks to run straight through.
The history is rather unfortunate. Ultimately, the railroad was unnecessary and the last delivery (of frozen turkeys) ran on the High Line in 1980. For almost thirty years the structure sat unused and started to turn into a big neighborhood concern. Most people wanted to tear it down.
In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, two neighborhood residents interested in preserving the High Line, met and realized there wasn't any type of organization fighting to save it. Together they decided it was up to them to make it happen. With a logo (they said that having a logo makes you look important even if you're two people in an apartment) and a shared mission, the two worked to gather support for saving this space. At one point, they had a contest for people to submit ideas for what should be done with this long, skinny track. Some of the most interesting - a lap pool or a roller coaster for instance - seemed cool to me. In the end, a landscape architecture firm and an architecture firm were chosen to work their magic and in 2008 designs to create a public park were released.
Here we were yesterday at the park 30 feet in the sky:
He told us all kinds of facts and pointed out great landmarks like these old hooks that had been preserved from when the trains still ran. They would unload the meat on these hooks straight from the cars.
There are eight full-time gardeners who maintain the wild plants in the park. The landscape designer intended for careful attention to be paid to the plants so everything must be hand-watered. Apparently the plants- whether through dying, growing or maturing - change the look of the park every two weeks. I imagine it's also pretty spectacular at night.
There are several art instillations to enjoy as well. This one takes the skyline and forms an abstract view of colors and shapes through a viewfinder.
Rachael Ray, in her October 2010 Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, had a list of 'NYC faves'. She described a little store called BuonItalia as "The best-kept secret in the city". Just as she described, you can go there to get pasta, olives, nuts, grains, cheese and more. When she suggested, "pack yourself a picnic and eat it upstairs on the High Line" I knew it was fate and made the same plan.
This is me with our picnic of fresh bread, salmon pate (we're still a little Seattle homesick), dill cheese, crackers and chocolate.
What Rachael left out was that BuonItalia is right inside Chelsea Market. Such an exciting place! Fresh bread stores, natural food markets, a chocolate bar and stores. We wandered around inside listening to a violin quartet for awhile before buying our picnic food and stopping in to check out a designer clothes sample sale. I think we see the best sites when we're just wandering around.
People have asked what our lives are like in NY so far. Sure, the dreamlike weekend days are fun, but the reality of our day-to-day lives is almost just like Seattle. We both work, we make dinner, we figure out how to manage chores and daily exercise. We are constantly entertained by the surprise Mariachi band concert on the street or the farmers market hidden in the park, but overall we're settling in nicely.