Having recently written about some of the physical challenges I am beginning to have with walking, it seems odd, even to me, that today’s post is about walking. But this is not about walking just anywhere; its about being on the amazing High Line in the heart of the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.
The Highline is an amazing architectural accomplishment that you can read about online. It was created by two New Yorkers who had a vision for this abandoned, 30-feet-above-ground train track that once served as transport for the products of the meatpacking industry in mid-Manhattan.
For me, the Highline ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Ellis Island as a destination for those seeking the “best” of NY experiences. Created for the public, it now serves millions of visitors annually as it has become one of the most popular attractions in NYC.
We knew about the Highline very early in its history because my son was involved with a nonprofit arts organization, Creative Time, which offered an art exhibit in an abandoned meatpacking facility located at the site where the Highline begins, at Gansevoort Street. Thanks to my son’s creative endeavors, we have often been privy to information about special events and happenings in NY before they become well known to the public. Thus, in the mid-90s we got to witness the early construction of the Highline and were able to visit it before it became deluged with visitors.
The Highline is a repurposed elevated railroad line that began in the Meatpacking District as a way of moving the goods out of that area, through a once derelict, now gentrified neighborhood in Manhattan, to the other means of transport that would carry the meat products to other parts of the country. It had long been abandoned and was overgrown with weeds and other native species of plants. It was wild and forgotten, but two NYC neighborhood dwellers were clever enough to envision the above-ground, cultivated promenade it would eventually become.
In its earliest stages it was delightful to visit because it was possible to see the changes being wrought by the architects and environmental planners and to appreciate the emerging vision they were trying to accomplish through their work. Back then very few people visited the High Line and you could feel like you and your friends had it almost to yourselves. It was an incredibly powerful feeling to know that this was a reclamation project that was transforming a leftover structure from another era into a lofty perch from which to gaze out over the streets of the West side of Manhattan.
Despite my recent walking issues, we were able to walk from 14th Street to 30th Street until my back problems kicked in. Some members of our party continue to the end which encircles the Hudson Yards, now the site of a major construction project for new housing adjacent to the railyards.
It has been several years since we last visited and I was happy to see that it was still as fresh and new as it had been, with some added features like a few food stands and shady spots to sit and rest with friends. The wooden lounges were very much in use by all kinds of loungers, and the water park was a popular area on such a hot day.