By Joanne Colella
In the sweltering heat of summer, one may not often think in terms of a day trip to the concrete jungle of New York City. And although most people are very familiar with the green expanses of Central Park, many may not be aware of another garden setting that offers visitors a uniquely cool perspective – on many levels – of the city’s landscape. Part park, part promenade, and celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, The High Line is a free, public space on Manhattan’s West Side that is elevated 30 feet in the air and currently runs a one-mile length from Gansevoort Street (three blocks below West 14th Street) in the trendy Meatpacking District and through the neighborhood of Chelsea to West 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, near the Javits Convention Center. Built along a historic freight rail line that was initially constructed in the 1930s, it has been redesigned and transformed into an aerial greenway, inspired by a similar project in Paris. In just a few years’ time, The High Line has become an enormously popular destination for city residents and tourists alike, welcoming more than four million visitors each year.
The High Line is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., with hours varying by season. Fully wheelchair-accessible, there are a number of access points, located at Gansevoort Street (elevator access), 14th Street (elevator access), West 16th Street (elevator access), West 18th Street, West 20th Street, 23rd Street (elevator currently out of service due to Superstorm Sandy damage), West 26th Street, West 28th Street, and West 30th Street (elevator access). The High Line is owned by the City of New York and maintained, along with the city’s department of parks and recreation, by Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy organization founded in 1999 by community residents who fought for its preservation and transformation when the historic structure was threatened with demolition. Since its opening, the surrounding neighborhoods have seen a real estate development boom of their own, as well.
Strolling along The High Line at any time of day or night, one is struck by the variety of scenes and surroundings it provides. A favorite gathering place is the 23th Street Lawn, which boasts open green space for picnicking, sunbathing, and tremendous people-watching. All along the one-mile stretch, with the old steel rails peeking through and incorporated into the design, a diverse assortment of flowers, grasses, plants, and trees – changing through the seasons – offers a horticultural feast for the eyes and an often stunning contrast to the cityscape all around. Ground-level fountains bubble give walkers a place to soothe their feet, and wooden lounge chairs beckon invitingly. The High Line provides a unique canvas for the fine and performing arts, as well, with changing artwork exhibitions, open-air music and dance, video programs, billboards, and sculpture. Each year, Friends of the High Line hosts more than 450 public programs, activities, and tours for children, teens, and adults of all ages and interests.
Rising above the street as it does, the walkway also allows a sense of rising above the hustle and bustle of the city – while at the same time providing a birds-eye view of the activity all around and below. Hungry visitors can savor sweet treats, tasty meals and snacks, freshly brewed coffee, and more from food vendors found along the stretch between West 15th and West 18th Street. There is also a mobile store with a selection of park maps, books, gifts, and designer apparel, with proceeds from purchases going to support The High Line. The shop is located at West 16th Street and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or shop online at www.shop.thehighline.org.
For the day trip – now or at any time of year – that is sure to take you to new heights, make tracks and head to The High Line. For park information, including hours, maps, calendar of events, and much more, visit the Friends of The High Line’s website at www.thehighline.org or call the information line at (212) 500-6035.