From the ground, it’s easy enough to miss it entirely at first, but eventually the skyscrapers will draw your gaze upwards, and you’ll inevitably notice the sprigs of greenery sprouting above you in the midst of the concrete jungle. This is Highline, a 3-mile long park that’s been strung up so cleverly from the heights of the city.
The steel frame of a once-abandoned stretch of train tracks is now in bloom with flowers, trees, and many different types of grasses. The railroad was originally built in 1930 and only in use as such for thirty short years. Now, New Yorkers and tourists alike flock to this park, eager for the promise of green space and the captivating views of the city this vantage point has to offer.
In the hot summer months, people come to sunbathe on the lounge chairs, school groups congregate on the walkways above the city, vendors sell overpriced ice cream, and people walk the length of the park from Greenwich to Chelsea, enjoying a break from the traffic below. So typical of New York, there’s a whole array of humanity on display here. I started walking at the Whitney and ended up at the Port Authority bus stop where I got on a bus out of town.
The entire neighborhood has felt the effect of this innovative design and landscape architecture. It has played a big part in the mixed blessing/curse of gentrification this area's been undergoing since as early as the 1990s, with local real-estate in the neighborhood rising drastically since the park opened in 2009. Amazing just how much a little bit of green is worth in such a densely-developed urban landscape. Now the store fronts below Highline are lined with high-end designer stores, Gucci, Prada, and co and the previously working-class meatpacking district has come to be one of the most luxurious and expensive areas in Manhattan.
The park, at least, is open and accessible to all, a reminder of the transformative power of plants and creative design. Walking around here you can’t help but feeling just a bit elevated.