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Scenes from the High Line

The High Line is an elevated railroad running from Penn Station down to the Meatpacking District. It was built in the 1930s to get freight trains out of pedestrians’ way on Tenth Avenue.

City planners didn’t have the best timing. The line was built just as the west side of Manhattan’s importance as a freight destination had started to wane. It saw only limited service, and had only occasional use until the last trains ran in 1980.

The line originally went all the way downtown, but the segment south of Bank Street was demolished in the 1960s, and the segment between Bank and Horatio Streets was demolished in the 1990s. What is left of the High Line ends abruptly at Gansevoort Street, in the Meatpacking District.

When I moved to New York, the High Line was considered an eyesore. The Giuliani Administration intended to demolish it, but two residents of the area, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, hatched the idea of turning it into an elevated park. It seemed absurd at first, but they found the the Bloomberg Administration considerably more receptive to the idea.

The first section of the High Line opened last week, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. The second section, from 20th to 30th Streets, is expected to open in 2010. The final section, from 30th to 34th Streets, is still privately owned, and its future has yet to be determined.

I paid a visit one evening last week, after work. The transformation is miraculous. I’ll describe it only briefly, and let the photos speak for themselves.

Above left: A typical section of the High Line near its southern end, where it actually passes through a former warehouse. Above right: An “amphitheater” at 16th Street looking out over Tenth Avenue.

Above: The amphitheater.

Above left: View of Chelsea Piers. Above right: Another view of the greenway.

Above: The former railroad tracks are integrated into the design.

Above left: Looking back on where we’ve come. Above right: The second section (20th to 30th Streets), currently under construction.

Above: Exit at 20th Street. There are five entrances (Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 18th, and 20th Streets). However, during the early period, when crowds are expected to be heavy, all but the Gansevoort Street stairs are exit-only. There is also elevator access at 16th Street.

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