Thursday, April 26, 2012

NYC High Line – A fantastic oasis in the City

Kudos to the City of New York and Friends of the High Line for building the most amazing walking garden in what it would otherwise be an abandoned industrial site. I am talking about the relative new High Line. The longest roof top garden in the US, built on top of a non-operated elevated historical railway line in the heart of Manhattan.

During a recent and very short visit to NYC, I was inspired by a small review in AA magazine about rooftop wonders. As I like everything gardening, I was intrigued by the article and discovered that one of the rooftop wonders was in NY, so I made a point to visit it while I was in Big Apple. I was also lucky to have stayed in a hotel only 4 avenues away from it. I headed west from my hotel to the intersection of 30st and 10th Avenue where the High Line starts (or ends?). You see the High Line is a rooftop public park, garden, museum, entertaining walking path that stretches 1.45 miles from Chelsea (30th Street) to the Meat Packing District (Gansevoort Street). It has entrances more or less every second street it passes and it has a few elevators too. There are plans to expand it up to 34th street in phase III.

While walking/jogging (yes! I did run – still amazed by this new me!) towards the High Line, I passed through NYC flower shops on 28st. I always wondered where New Yorkers bought their plants as they lack the Home Depo’s and big garden centers of the suburbs. I was gladly surprised by the way the tiny row of flower shops arranged their plants and delicate flowers across the pavement, leaving only a small path for people to walk. It was like being transported into a flower market in the middle of the city only 2 streets long – it felt a little like Amsterdam minus the tulips. People carrying various sizes of beautiful arrays wrapped in brown paper bags seem to disappear once I crossed the 8th avenue. Beautiful as this was, it amounts to nothing compared to what I was about to see.

I had no expectations about the High line as I have never seen anything like it. All I knew was that I was looking for an elevated train line and that I was supposed to look up as soon as I was close to 10th avenue. So that is what I did and there was no escaping it. It was clear from below that I had reached my destination. However, no surprise, from here it looked just like that, an elevated train track and nothing else.

I went up the stairs on 30st and was welcomed by beauty!
The newly constructed path opened in 2 phases in 2009 and 2010 respectively and it is stunning. It is tranquil and peaceful – two words I never thought I could use to describe anywhere in NYC. The long corridor is surrounded by all types of plants, grasses, flowers trees and even a stretch of lawn. Along the way you can see different sculptures, an amphitheater, an outdoor film area, art stages, a café, water features, a multitude of places to rest an relax, including lounger style chairs overlooking the water and even a zoo (well, an arty still life zoo, but a zoo nonetheless)

I have learned that during the day, it is a space for the arts; you can hear musicians, see plays and films and do crafts with your kids.
The whole project fascinated me, not only because it hits me on 2 of my favorite passions, gardening and arts, but also because all of this was done on top of a structure that was abandoned for years and was considered to be demolished. It was an eye sore for the community. Talk about reusing resources and bringing life to the city. The new structure is a habitat to butterflies and birds that otherwise will struggle to be in the city, it helps bring peace to hectic New Yorkers that can walk there and forget about the traffic and craziness going on below.

I have to say that I truly enjoyed my walk/run and I am glad I discovered this new piece of NYC, a city that never stops to amaze me.

Hey, even people from Lilliput are enjoying this space!

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