High Line Park in New York City is a fairly recent attraction, but its popularity has risen exponentially in the relatively short time to be on par with the venerable Central Park.
The High Line is built on elevated rails that run through many of Manhattan’s West Side neighborhoods. Contrary to what many people believe, the High Line park is situated on rails that were repurposed from an old freight line, not a subway line.
Tracks along that stretch of southwest Manhattan date back to 1847, when rails were constructed at street level. However, with the industry and traffic in the area, there were numerous accidents; in 1929, the city accepted the West Side Improvement Project, which would create elevated train lines and get train traffic off the busy streets of Manhattan. Between 1929 and 1934, the tracks that we now call the High Line were built; these tracks allowed freight cars to park alongside factories and warehouses which they serviced, and even to move inside these buildings, in some cases, as rails were built to connect to loading docks of many of the industrial businesses of the area.
In the 1960’s, the High Line saw a decline in its popularity, due to the rise of the trucking industry and the move of many area businesses to more affordable locations in New Jersey and beyond; the southern segment of the High Line was demolished, and trains stopped utilizing the High Line permanently in 1980.
For a couple decades, the elevated tracks were forgotten, and weeds cropped up. In 1999, two locals, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, argued at a community meeting in West Chelsea against the proposed demolition of the High Line; forming the Friends of the High Line, they proposed instead to transform the High Line into public open space. New York approved the plans, along with then mayor Michael Bloomberg, and construction began soon after, to be completed in three phases. Phase 1 was the southern section of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street; its groundbreaking took place in April, 2006, and completed in June of 2009. Phase 2, which runs from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened to the public two years later, in June of 2011. The final phase, which would run from West 30th Street to West 34th Street, and curve towards the Hudson River from 10th Ave to 12th Ave, has been approved and should be open to the public within the next year or so.
Location & Hours
The High Line Park is located in one of the most fashionable areas in Manhattan. Running through several trendy neighborhoods, such as Chelsea, Tribeca, and the Meatpacking District, it’s helped to generate higher dollar values for the neighborhood: what was only once astronomically high-priced is now even more expensive and exclusive. Still, the High Line offers a scenic respite in busy Manhattan; whether strolling through it during the daytime or in the late evening after the sun has set, the views are amazing.
During the daytime, the views of the Hudson River, New Jersey, the skyscrapers in the distance, and the streets below are sharply defined, while at night, the twinkling lights of the buildings and ships on the Hudson, as well as the energy of the people heading to the exclusive clubs around the Meatpacking District offer a unique feeling – you are high enough to observe the activity below, but not too high, as from the observation deck of the Top of the Rock, to feel so far removed and not hear the city sounds.
People watching is a unique experience from the High Line, for the same reason – most parks cannot offer an overhead vista of city life:
The park has some hours made for the elderly, to its great disadvantage, a weird inconvenience in the City that Never Sleeps. During the off-peak season, the park is open from 7am – 7pm; during the peak months, from around Memorial Day through Labor Day, the park stays open until 11pm, which is slightly more ideal.
Next time you’re in New York City, make sure to check out the High Line Park; it is definitely on of the must-see attractions in Manhattan. For more information, including hours, accessible info, and more on the people behind the world-renowned park, visit the Friends of the High Line.