Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The High Line, Washington Street/Tenth Avenue Between Gansevoort and 20th Street


Mary Sargent © 2009 ……... click to enlarge

Mary Sargent © 2009 …………………………………….. click to enlarge


I realize that I've been talking about the High Line as though everyone knows what it is, but it's entirely possible you don't know even if you live in New York. So let's start at the beginning.


In the beginning, say 1851, a railroad ran on the streets of New York, creating such peril for street traffic that 10th Avenue came to be nicknamed Death Avenue. And so it came to be that in 1929 (before or after the crash?) the City and State of New York and the New York Central Railroad agreed to the West Side Improvement Project, which included the High Line and added 32 acres to Riverside Park.

The High Line ran from 34th Street to Spring Street and was designed to go down the center of blocks rather than over the avenue to keep things tidy. Imagine. It ran through factories and warehouses and so could pick up and deliver freight without setting foot in the street. And we think we're so smart.

But, alas, the feds built the interstates in the 50's and trucking became competitive with freight trains, causing a drop in rail traffic. In 1980 the last train ran on the High Line carrying three cars of frozen turkeys. What an ignominious end.

The High Line was abandoned and as the months and years went by, nature took over. Wild grasses grew, and flowers. It was becoming a meadow. A few people noticed. They probably snuck up there. They thought it was way cool. Wow, this would make an awesome park, they probably said to themselves.

Oh, I forgot to say that in the 60's the southern part was demolished, whether all the way to Gansevoort or not, I don't know.

So then some people wanted it torn down, including Mayor Guiliani, and others fought to keep it. Friends of the High Line was formed.

Friends of the High Line won. A miracle.

The photos above show how the landscaping keeps elements of the High Line's abandonment period.


1 comment:

Carool said...

My brother and I will be going (to the High Line) on Monday around 4:30. Can't wait! And I think it's good, and kind of interesting, that there are more of these public layabout places being created in Manhattan (the area around Madison Square Park; the Times Square rest areas, etc.). New Yorker encourages lolling!