Enjoying the High Line – New York’s newest city park

The cool logo along with the NYC Parks logo

One of the amazing things about a city as big as New York is that there are always people around to take up a cause, not matter how small it might seem.  So when an elevated freight railroad line, built in the 1930s and in service until the 1980s fell into disrepair there were actually people around who recognized the potential value that it could offer as a green space and, more importantly, who were willing to invest the time and energy to see the project through.  The end result is the High Line Park, the latest addition to NYC’s ever growing collection of park space and, quite frankly, one of the nicer parks in the city.

After serving as an active freight line for forty something years, connecting from the rail tunnel to New Jersey at 34th street to the Nabisco factory and the Meatpacking district (back when they actually did process meat there) the rail tracks became abandoned in the 80s.  During the 90s the area became something of a natural park, with wildflowers and other flora growing on it but access was generally prohibited and it was not “user-friendly” at all.  What a difference 20 years makes.  Over the past 10 years a couple local guys – Robert Hammond and Joshua David – have worked with the city and private donors to raise the necessary funds and secure the future of the space.  CSX, the owner of the rail lines at the time, donated the facilities and the renovations began in earnest, culminating in the opening of the first section of the park a couple weeks ago.

It has been an overwhelming success, so much so that the city has actually had to limit access on certain days allowing entry only from the Gansevoort Street entrance to control the crowds.  But on a weekday there may not be a better place to get above the din of the streets in the meatpacking district and relax.  I even managed to pick up a signal from an unsecured wireless access point around 15th street and did some work for a couple hours on Tuesday, just to see if it was possible.  The signal wasn’t great, but it was open, so that was nice.

There are plenty of seats and benches available through the park including some that are full length for laying down.  There are even a few that are on the rail tracks with wheels, though they only roll a few inches. 

Lounging on the rolling chairs

More than just the benches, the rail theme is tightly woven into the design of the park.  The original rails were removed as part of the renovations and many were worked back into the layout of the park.  There are rails running everywhere.  Some, like in the seating areas, are in areas where visitors are allowed to tread.  Many of the others are mixed into the flower planters, a nod to the history of the High Line and its previous overgrown wildlife nature.

Just a couple of the places where the rails are integrated into the design of the landscape.

More than just a park, the developers have managed to work in some art installations on the High Line, too.  The most interesting one to me is The River That Flows Both Ways, a series of 700 glass panels installed in the old windows of one of the Nabisco buildings (the one on the west side of 10 Avenue).  The installation is quite pretty and changes throughout the day as the levels of light change.  I’m not a huge fan of modern art but this one works for me.

The River That Flows Both Ways


The amphitheatre and the sloping ramp integrated into the benches

One of the other really cool features of the park is the mini amphitheatre that they have built at 17th street.  It has a half dozen rows of benches looking north over 10th Avenue through great big windows.  But in addition to that they have designed it to be ADA compliant all the way down to the bottom and the windows.  The ramps are built into the rows of the benches.  It really is quite cool.

Finally, the flowers planted on the High Line have already begun to attract residents, mostly in the form of bees thus far.  Watching the bees flit from flower to flower certainly kept me entertained with my camera for a while.

One of the many shots I got of the bees

The next phase of the park – from 20th Street up to 30th Street – is still under construction and the ETA for its opening is a bit fuzzy right now, but it will happen eventually.  Having that will certainly make the walk up to Penn Station much more pleasant, if not a bit longer, once it opens.

A few more pictures – mostly of the bees – are available here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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