Death Avenue to Urban Sanctuary
I have to hand it to NYC Friends of the Highline for seeing possibilities in the rusting elevated, abandoned train track that once ran on above Manhattan’s Lower West Side.
“I am grass. Let me work.” Carl Sandburg
I finally made it to the Highline. This is a walk I have had on my list for years and apparently I am not alone because I was one of nearly six million visitors each year. This elevated train track, abandoned in the eighties was slowly rusting away, but along the way grass grew up. Seeds deposited by birds, traveling on the wind found precarious purchase on the abandoned stretch. Trees began to grow above the street between the trestles’ and along the track.
WEST SIDE COWBOYS
Originally this track delivered food to the city replacing the 10 Avenue train the past the sailors boarding houses stretching along the river and through the meatpacking district of the Lower West Side.
At the entrance on 34th Street, I greeted by a black and white photo of what looked like a cowboy preceding a train. Having done no research beyond how to reach the park, I did not know that these men were hired by the New York Central Railroad to precede the train waiving a bright red flag to help clear the tracks of crossing pedestrians with mixed results judging by the earned moniker Death Avenue for the number of collision between iron horse and human pedestrians.
MOLDERING METAL TO URBAN GREEN SPACE
Built in the 1930s and defunct by the 1960s, moldering through the 1980 and scheduled for demolition 2001 but repurposed beginning in 2004 until the lower section of the elevated park opened in 2009.
I first heard of this 1.45 mile walk from my editor. She warned me to avoid weekends as they are super crowded. But I went on the weekend and…it was super crowded. But it was a special opening of the spring season and there was music and dancing and food all along the way. Not the fastest walk and definitely not a power walker. But that’s okay because there was so much to see and do. We strolled this lovely promenade enjoying view of the city, the street and Hudson all along the way and pausing to appreciate the clever landscaping and flowering trees.
WALKING THE HIGHLINE
Being above street level gives an interesting perspective. I really approve of the conscious plan to mimic the plants, grasses and trees that arrived unassisted to the abandoned stretch of track.
The architecture fits seamlessly into the walk and echoes the tracks. There are plenty of pull outs and stopping places including some innovative seating. I admired the seats that looked like stacked rail trestles.
We reached the end of the Highline all too soon but continued our adventure through Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District that is now a very hip neighborhood that buzzes with activity.
WHERE: The High Line is a public park build on elevated rail line from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues.