October 25, 2010

The High Line

Posted in Travel tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana

The High Line

The High Line

Have you heard of the High Line?

Last week I attended the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) business design conference in New York City. There, I heard the story of the High Line’s transformation from one of the central characters involved in this inspiring tale.

The story is so affirmative, hopeful and uplifting that I absolutely had to see the place.

I convinced my son Mike to go with me to the Meatpacking District of Manhattan late on a golden Saturday afternoon. It was a cold fall day, Mike was tired, and walking along some windy rail line didn’t seem like the best option in this city of options. He was skeptical about this adventure. I persisted.

Originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets, the High Line decayed for years as an abandoned elevated rail line running through the West Side neighborhoods of Manhattan.  It was a nasty eyesore in a rough, dangerous neighborhood.

Then two young men read an article in the NY Times stating that the High Line was about to be demolished. They got together and formed a group – Friends of the High Line. They raised money. They changed public attitude and perceptions. They got together a team of talented and creative people

It took five years, but eventually they created something beautiful. And something practical.

Mike and I climbed the metal stairs leading up to the elevation, and this is what we saw: trees, colorful wild grasses, wild flowers in purple, pink and burgundy blooms, green bamboo shoots, and people. Young couples pushing babies in strollers down the paved promenade, older couples sitting on benches in the setting sun, children playing with ornamental stones, tourists gazing at the Hudson River and the New York skyline. Through the grasses and the flowers, one detected traces of the old rails. The High Line didn’t try to forget its humble origins.

It reminded me of korzo walkways in old Italian towns.

Mike forgot that it was windy and cold. He was delighted. We went from one end of this promenade to another, read all the signs and lingered until we were hungry. It seemed a shame to leave such a pleasant oasis.

But we had plenty of options once we descended the stairs. Along with the elevated rail line, the neighborhood has metamorphosed as well. Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, art galleries, even a museum is about to be built.

And all of this started with only two people.