Know the New Hiking How-tos
New York Times (September 20, 2014)
The Climax in a Tale of Green and Gritty
“If the newest, last stretch of the High Line doesn’t make you fall in love with New York all over again, I really don’t know what to say. Phase 3 of the elevated park, which opens on Sunday, is a heartbreaker, swinging west on 30th Street from 10th Avenue toward the Hudson River, straight into drop-dead sunset views. It spills into a feral grove of big-tooth aspen trees on 34th Street.
It’s hard to believe now that some New Yorkers once thought renovating the decrepit elevated rail line was a lousy idea. Not since Central Park opened in 1857 has a park reshaped New Yorkers’ thinking about public space and the city more profoundly. Like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Spain, it has spread a dream, albeit largely a pipe dream, around the world: how one exceptional design — in this case, a work of landscape architecture — might miraculously alter a whole neighborhood, even a whole city’s fortunes.”
The article continues by clicking here.
From the New York Times Art and Design Section:
September 7, 2014
Upstairs, a Walk on the Wild Side
Unruly Final Section of High Line to Open
When the High Line at the Rail Yards, the final section of the elevated park, opens on Sept. 21, we will no longer have to stop at 30th Street and stare longingly through the construction gate at the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming in wild profusion along the old tracks.
We can walk out on a wide plaza made of the familiar concrete planks, tapered so that plants appear to be pushing up out of the crevices. It’s the same planking system that flows from Gansevoort Street, a mile south, where the High Line begins in the heart of the meatpacking district, in the dappled light of a birch grove.
The northernmost $75 million section has the same benches, too — modernist perches, of reclaimed Angelique, a tropical hardwood, and precast concrete, that appear to peel up from the floor. But now, they have morphed into picnic tables and even a seesaw for children, as one heads west, along a grove of Kentucky coffee trees toward the river.
Quaking aspens, their leaves rustling in the slightest breeze, rise out of beds full of sumacs, sassafras and the countless prairie plants and grasses that Piet Oudolf, the Dutch master plants man envisioned here. “It’s still lush, still natural, but we used different trees and other species,” Mr. Oudolf said on the phone from his home in Hummelo, the Netherlands.
The wild, untouched section is reached only after crossing the 11th Avenue bridge, where a wide central path rises gently over seven lanes of streaming southbound traffic, and lifts the heart with its dramatic views up and down Manhattan’s grid.
It is a relief to leave behind the old tamed High Line, truly a garden now, complete with a lawn. (Couldn’t lawn lovers just go over to Hudson River Park?)
After the bridge, the joy is gazing upon unruly plantings, left by the birds or the wind, growing out of the rusted track: chokecherry, laden with berries, milkweed pods bursting with seeds, evening primrose and blazing star, even a crab apple tree fruiting in the middle of a sea of Queen Anne’s lace.
Why was the High Line built in the first place? Here's some background from the New York Times, December 25, 2011:
"THOUSANDS of kids are going to find model train sets under the tree on Christmas morning — freight trains, circus trains, Wild West trains, military trains, express trains, commuter trains. ... But one train setup you won’t see is a replica of the street-level freight line that plied the West Side from 1846 to 1941. The line killed and mutilated hundreds of people, and its path well earned the name Death Avenue.
In 1846, what was then the Hudson River Railroad negotiated a charter with the city to run tracks on an irregular route down 10th and 11th Avenues to a freight terminal at Beach and Hudson Streets and then to a final stop at Chambers Street. The trains were sometimes several blocks long, interfering with crossing traffic. Pedestrian deaths along the way were fairly common. The New York Times reported at least one each in 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854 and 1855, describing one victim as “shockingly mangled.”
At some point, trains were required to send a man ahead on horseback waving a red warning flag, at a pace of six miles per hour."
The article continues by clicking here (it has a great pre-High Line photo with a mounted escort preceding a train on 11th Avenue about 1900).