Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0127, June 6, 2017


NYC's High Line

Below: the amazing blossoms of a "smoke tree"

Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     "'Smoke tree'??" Prickles, our resident hedgehog and horticulturalist, is incredulous. I don't know the actual botanical name but obviously that's what any reasonable person would call it. Let's not get hung up on details. Here is the story.

     Some years ago when the City of New York was going about the business of tearing down the old city structures to make room for new skyscrapers, some genius said, hey, let's not tear down the abandoned elevated train tracks running through midtown, let's instead convert them into an elevated garden path and build the skyscrapers over it and around it. And that's exactly what they did. Now I can report, from personal experience, that this was one of the most fabulous ideas any city planner ever had. I don't know whether there is anything comparable in any other city in the world. I know Seoul has converted an abandoned bridge into a plant nursery and public pathway but it's a fairly pedestrian - you should pardon the expression - affair that doesn't compare with the sheer poetry and artistry of the New York High Line.

     It is extremely well done. It meanders among, around and through some of the newest architectural wonders of NY sky-scape as well as through some older districts, offering great views of the city while remaining seemingly a walk in the wilderness, undisturbed by the traffic bustling invisibly underneath. The wilderness is artful: there are areas of "weeds" and simple wildflowers intruding into the walkway, backed by exotic flowering trees and bushes, like the "smoke tree" for an example.

     There are benches everywhere to rest on, even chaise-lounges for sunbathing in the open areas. One section of the walkway is flooded with a running sheet of water for people to walk on barefoot. A dry path runs alongside for the less exuberantly minded citizens unwilling to shed their footwear. Scattered here and there are sculptural pieces. Other, less charming features: occasional ice cream and snack vendors, information stands, and artists peddling High Line kitsch. But no panhandlers - signs warn people not to give money to panhandlers.

     The High Line runs west of the 11th Avenue from about a block south of 14th Street (at MOMA) to 34th where it meets the subway line 7 terminal, just east of the 11th Avenue. But the section between 30th and 34th, a long bend descending gradually to ground level, offering vistas of the city under construction, is essentially just a city walk. The cultivated wilderness ends just south of 30th. Hi Line is also accessible via staircases at major street intersections, and elevators at 23rd and 30th. It's about a forty five minute leisurely walk from one end to the other. Highly recommended.

     "Are there any hedgehogs in the park?" Prickles wants to know. Unfortunately, no. But you can be the first one. (I think she's considering it.)

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