Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Couple of Trips to the Highline

My main motivation for this post is to give Greg a little something to look at while he recuperates from his hernia surgery. All went well, he's doing fine, but he's been wanting my report on the new Highline Park for a while, and I figure even if he's not able to sit down for long, or if the painkillers make it hard to focus, he'll still enjoy the pictures. I know what it's like to have the attention-span of a fruit bat.

I first went to the park on July 9th. That day the weather was cool and breezy, the air dry, the light clear and beautiful. This week I went on Tuesday, when it was humid as hell, and there was a smog advisory. As you can imagine, most of the good shots come from the July trip. You should be able to enlarge all of them.

This is not actually a part of the park, but it's a building I liked about a block from the uptown entrance. I know nothing about this place. I just think it looks cool.

Here is the 20th St entrance to the park. This part of town was previously industrial and in recent years has been taken over by art galleries. I learned from my time at Pratt that landing a gallery in Chelsea is a big status symbol for artists.

Oh, perhaps many of you don't know what all the fuss is about. The Highline is a stretch of abandoned elevated train tracks on the west side of Manhattan. A few years back someone noticed wildflowers were growing up there and decided to turn it into a proper city park. Parts of it are still under construction, but a good portion of it is now available.

A viewing gallery, where one can sit and watch the traffic pass below. I'm not sure why this appeals to people, but it does, me included. Maybe the unusual angle is the draw. Or perhaps we like the sense of floating over something.

Melissa and I went in July; about a week later my friend Sian and I tried to go again, but since it was a Sunday, there were huge lines at the entrances, as if people were waiting to get on a roller coaster. When I went back this past Tuesday afternoon I was again able to walk right on, the crowds were noticeable but not oppressive, so for the foreseeable future I would recommend avoiding it on weekends.
Both times I've gone, the buzz of the crowd seemed more like what one finds in a theatre lobby at intermission, than what is typically in a park. One has to climb stairs or take an elevator to get to the location, then one's movements are limited to walking north or south, sitting, standing, or looking at stuff. The park is really the only reason to be there, and for now at least, it feels like an event as much as it is a location.
I appreciated being able to see some distance, and be up a little higher than normal in this part of town. In every city one pays extra for 'views' but New York, especially Manhattan, takes that to an extreme. In Seattle or San Francisco, for example, one can get some gorgeous scenery just by walking up a hill. Here, being able to see far distances almost always costs money, in the form of an expensive high rise apartment, restaurant, or club. The Highline provides a whole new set of vistas.
I appreciate the fact that many of the rails were left in place, with cement and plantings put in around them.

This is my most successful lying-on-the-ground shot, especially for Greg. Yes, that is the Empire State building. That's how you know it's really New York. A view of this or the Statue of Liberty is necessary to validate any image of Manhattan. I can also vouch that the Highline is truly a New York park, since no one cared that I was lying on the ground, as long as I wasn't blocking traffic. Here it is possible to block traffic, but so far people seem aware of that, and careful to avoid it. The flow remained constant and cordial.

The park provides a new perspective on an area in the later throes of gentrification. There are still plenty of abandoned-looking warehouse spaces (some of which probably are art galleries nonetheless), but one can also find very high end condos and high rises, often on the same block. On the Highline it often takes just a turn of the head to see both extremes.

I quickly learned that it's difficult to get angles that show you just how high in the air the park is. Often an image just suggests a well flowered parking strip, on street level. So finding ways to show the elevation became my goal.

This doesn't accomplish that.

Nor does this one.

This one comes close, doesn't it?

Yes, I believe that IS a Gehry.

I include this shot mostly for Greg's sake, since I am pretty sure that's the bar we went after Sarah and Danny's wedding. It was nice place after a great occasion, but I think it will particularly live in Greg's heart as the place where he was carded on his 44th birthday.

One of the best angles for showing the elevation, I think.

This is another public space, which I'll have to investigate at some point. And I figure anything looking down gives you a sense of being up, right?

This image gives me the willies. I had to share it. Not sure why it freaks me out so, but it does. I figure that was the goal, so, good work, somebody.

I'm always delighted when more greenery is added to an urban environment. Turning previously unusable space--with a minimum of fall-out for locals, I hope-- into a public park is inspired, I think. Next time you're in town, Greg, we'll be sure to go. I hope your recovery is speedy and painless.


Greg said...

What a sweet, sweet pal you are, Patrick! Thanks so much for a wonderful garden walk on a beautiful day when I'm stuck inside, not feeling poorly exactly, but certainly not feeling like walking much.

Being one of those railfan/gardener hybrids, I've been fascinated by the idea of this project for a while...and I always love a space that shows off how easily Nature can trump (old definition, nothing to do with bad hair) the works of man.

Nice job with the whole Up/Down thing. Dear god, is that Beethoven hair on NIMOY?! Yikes.

I can't wait to visit for reals. Thanks for the treat!

Patrick said...

Actually G, that is Marilyn Monroe hair on Nimoy. It is creepy, isn't it. Glad you enjoyed the stroll.

Java said...

I read your description of the park to Superman. He thinks it's kinda silly. He suggested it is the hanging gardens of Manhattan. You know, since Manhattan is the modern-day Babylon. Or something.

I like the idea of reclaiming the space for something as aesthetic as a park.

Jess said...

Just catching up on my blog reading. What a lovely post! I remember going for walks when I worked in the Village and walking under there on my way for a walk along the river. This was before they opened it as a park, but I always found it to be an intriguing remnant of a bygone era.

Greg said...

Ahh, Monroe hair. Creepier still on Nimoy. I like the little protesting Einstein, though.

That green-covered building reminds me of the School for Trees you showed us last year.

Birdie said...

Big Hair Nimoy is inspired: logic and lust. Add this park to the list of Things To See the next time I come to NYC. (I don't know when that will be, but it will have to be a long visit to see everything and everyone!) This post should be part of a travelogue.

tornwordo said...

Great tour, thanks. I'll have to visit next time I'm in the city.

Ben said...

I finally went up there 2 weekends ago w/ a friend. We only walked a couple blocks & were, uh, underwhelmed. Intermission lobby is a good description. Maybe after a year or 5 when the novelty wears off, there will be fewer crowds, & it'll be really cool. Right now, though, I'm thinking it was better in concept than things so often are.

BTW, I see I've missed a bunch of blogs. Bad friend!

Melissa said...

Oh I am so glad you have wandered back over there Patrick!
I have not managed to get out beyond 33rd and Madison much less 20th and 10th!
but I am trying - would love to have a wander over there (or anywhere, really)
with you soon -
I miss your face xox

Stephen Chapman... said...

Those are really cool pics - I didnt know this path/line existed.

You may be interested in a monthly fun posting that I started in July called "5 on the fifth". You take 5 random photographs on the fifth of the month and post them somewhere on the net. You then let me know link to the site containing your photos and I update my blog entry so the world has your link.


Here's a link to the last "5 on the fifth" posts:

Hope that you can take part