After a beautifully busy day in bustling Manhattan, I visited the High Line Park for the first time since 2011 and loved it just as much as I did four years ago. It’s like no other urban experience in the city — where you’re in the heart of everything but not really quite part of it.
The High Line is an old elevated rail line in the Chelsea neighborhood that was used through the 70s for shipping goods. Eventually fell into disuse and languished for decades, then finally opened up as a repurposed public park in 2009. It’s a popular attraction and — although it has spurred some controversial gentrification and tourism in the neighborhood — is still one of my favorite experiences in the city.
The narrow elevated park is filled with colorful wild flowers and vibrant green grasses, old rail lines and sweeping views of the Hudson River. It’s a slightly slower speed high above the busy pace of the hot, humid, streets below and — even with all the tourists and other strollers — a breezy quiet prevails.
Snaking behind, above, and between the buildings, the path meanders pleasantly from the old meatpacking district to the Hudson Yards. It encourages a mid-paced amble. And around ever corner, a new view of the city unfolds. Beautiful one-point-perspective cityscapes on the left, sunsetting golden landscapes reflecting off water on the right, all while graffiti murals peak around nearly every other bend. It’s peaceful.
The quiet respite from the city below is punctuated with unfamiliar sounds: water splashes and kids laugh in the water feature at the Diller-von Furstenberg sundeck; leaves rustle, tall grasses brush against themselves in the wind; and muted notes of a sax reverberate gently against cement walls in a covered portion of the linear park.
The High Line also engages its users with art and with each other in various permanent sculptures and temporary installations. In Olafur Eliasson’s Come Build with Us! people interact with each other — even strangers — as they build an ever-changing fictional cityscape of white legos. It’s a rare experience that undermines the stereotype of the city as a place of isolation and silent subway commuters.
Walking the High Line is like being in the city but not of it, and it is exactly this tranquil otherness that makes it so special.
— Laura Rowley