Sunday, April 19, 2015

High Line, New York reclaimed goods railway urban project - final sections open 2015

The New York High Line is a fascinating urban reclamation project and is now fully open from 34th Street to Horatio St and 11th Avenue, Greenwich Village, south-west Manhattan.  It is a 3km section of an elevated goods line abandoned in the 1960s. 
 
We started the walk behind Penn Station on 34th Street where low cost interstate coaches pick up their passengers close to the Hudson River.  A broad ramp follows the old train tracks which took the line away from street level where many level crossings had become so dangerous by 1924 that 11th Avenue was called ‘Death Avenue’.  The tracks have been carefully filled in for pedestrian safety along its entire length and generally half the original line is either left to nature or else planted out. 
 
The line actually went through a number of buildings, rather like the old monorail in Sydney.  Since this virtual slum has now come alive again in recent years as a popular area there are many new buildings either completed or under construction.  Each has to give due deference to the High Line, some over it, others beside it with one even overhanging it in a vary, precarious and extraordinary way.  At one stage the line deviates slightly to go around a mid-19th century building. 
 
From two sections of the walk there are spectacular views of the mighty Hudson River with Hoboken and Jersey City in the distance.  Among the meandering tourists by chance we ran into two groups of Australians, noting the accent (or lack of it) as they were doing exactly what we were, from curiosity.  There are many caf├ęs, markets and other shops on the east side of the Greenwich Village end of the line and the new Whitney Museum to the west, next to the Hudson River.  It is worth a look at the extraordinary Enzo Piano designed building housing American art. 
 
The project is most interesting and clearly very popular and one has to be impressed at the enormous amount of conservation work which has been done.  My disappointment over the lack of labels on the plants was muted by a later web search revealing a detailed list of photographs of the monthly blooms complete with Latin and common names.  There were limited covered areas with eating and in high summer I could see this being very hot indeed.  Yet there are exits every few streets, most with elevators, so one can walk for a few streets or the entire length as desired.  There is one area where souvenirs and memorabilia was sold.  There are also some small 'lay-bys' and good toilet facilities. 
 
It was great to see the old train tracks, rails, points, sleepers and third rail (not clear why since it was never electrified).  But I am a railways enthusiast and would have loved to see even just one old goods car, engine or shunter. 
 
But despite my reservations, the walk is free, it is healthy and gives one a perspective on the history of our transport from horses to ship to rail and now to the air. 
 
Notes by Andrew Byrne ..