The High Line, which opened June 9 is New York’s ultimate Cinderella—an abandoned West Side railroad line slated for demolition transformed into a beautifully-landscaped, elevated promenade whose charms are totally irresistible. An architectural gem, it is part park, part fashion runway, part boardwalk and even for jaded New Yorkers, a total delight.
The transformation took place with lightening speed, only a decade from inspiration to completion of its first section. Compare this to what is going on at Ground Zero and it’s some sort of public-private sector miracle.
The High Line is such a huge hit—with 18,000 to 20,000 visitors on peak days—that it has become the latest “in place” for New Yorkers to strut, stroll, sit, stretch, sketch, sunbathe, snap pictures, schmooze and, of course, sup. If you love crowds, then the weekend scene is for you. If you prefer tranquility, try to go during the week when working stiffs are still in their cubicles. (It’s open from 7 a.m to 10 p.m.) Early morning and late at night have their own special magic. Much depends on whether you are there to ooh and ahh over the plantings, take a run or aim your digital camera at the setting sun.
The first section of the High Line, west of the Meat Packing district, stretches from two blocks below 14th Street and Tenth Avenue to 20th Street. Its main access, by stairs, is at Gansevoort and Washington Streets. An elevator access is located at 16th Street. The second section, already under construction, is slated to open in the Fall of 2010, and will extend to 30th Street. The third phase, if approved, will reach to 34th Street.
Because of the artful way the High Line is designed, the route offers a variety of views, resting places and things to do. It expands and contracts, to accommodate plantings, seating alcoves and, midway, something called “The Sunken Overlook,” a mini-amphitheater suspended over 16th and 17th Street. This surprising outcrop gives visitors a view of Tenth Avenue traffic as well as a place to meet, picnic, hold mini-parties and just hang out.
Another show-stopper is the 20-story Standard Hotel, a concrete building standing over the High Line, which competes with views of the Empire State Building, and other forms of eye candy— from semi-clad sunbathers to assorted exhibitionist—for best in show.
All in all, the High Line is eco-urban, green New York at its hippest. Take a friend and partake of the scene. Then head for one of dozens of eateries in the neighborhood and congratulate yourself, yet again, on living in this great city.