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Getting a View from Above on New York’s High Line
By Tom Adkinson

new york high line
The High Line offers an above-it-all walking experience for 1.45 miles on Manhattan’s West Side. -- Image by Tom Adkinson

NEW YORK – The High Line is an odd place of relative quiet in a hectic and noisy metropolis. It’s an elevated pedestrian park that once was a spur line of the New York Central Railroad. Reminders of the railroad exist, but it’s hard to imagine that locomotives and boxcars once rumbled along where you now stroll amid trees, flowers and outdoor art installations.

There are plenty of prohibitions governing the 1.45 miles of the High Line – no dogs, no smoking, no bicycles, no skateboards, no roller skates, no amplified sound and a long list of other no-nos – but they serve a good purpose, an unexpected break from big-city life.

The High Line’s skinny strand of nature is one level above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side and therefore slightly divorced from the bustling pace of what’s below, and slightly quieter, too. Trees sway with the breeze, flowers add color and various works of art draw your attention. It has 11 access points between Gansevoort Street and W. 34th Street.

The railroad line opened in 1934 to move all manner of freight. It served its purpose through the 1970s and carried its last train in 1980. That shipment was three boxcars of frozen turkeys.

new york freight rail
This photo shows the abandoned railroad spur line before its adaptation into an urban park. -- Image by Tom Adkinson

The infrastructure was in place but out of use, and, of course, there was talk of tearing it all down. However, citizens spoke up, and ideas of a most unusual rails-to-trails project evolved over several years. Inspiration came from a similar endeavor, the Promenade Plantee in Paris. With France’s proof of what could be, the idea of the High Line park didn’t seem so farfetched.

Sculptures and other art installations add special touches to High Line walks. The Friends of the High Line offer guided art walks from April through October. -- Image by Tom Adkinson
  new york highline
Construction is almost constant along the High Line’s route, sometimes providing spaces for urban murals. -- Image by Tom Adkinson

The park’s first section opened in 2009 and has been expanded since then, transforming industrial infrastructure into public greenspace. While it is part of the New York City parks department, it is maintained and supported by the private sector in the form of Friends of the High Line.

new york highline
A sweeping curve elevates from W. 34th Street at the north end of the High Line. -- Image by Tom Adkinson

Approximately five million visitors a year take a break from the city’s normal pace by spending some time on the High Line. It’s a place to walk, listen, view art, contemplate nature’s resilience and even indulge in some youthful play, such as soaking your tired feet in a water feature between W. 14th Street and W. 15th Street.

Tall buildings are all around the High Line, but there are some surprising sightlines along the way. There’s even one spot where you can view the Hudson River and see all the way to the Statue of Liberty.

This is New York, so food always is nearby and down just one flight of stairs. Break up your High Line time with a gelato, some empanadas, a panini or a paleta (a frozen Mexican treat). If you crave a craft beer, Death Ave, a Greek restaurant on 10th Avenue, has choices brewed on site.

You can enjoy the High Line on your own, or you can enhance your visit with a Friends of High Line tour. Two regular outings are an art tour the last Monday of the month from April through October and the “Freight to Flowers” tour Tuesdays and Saturdays from May through September.

Trip planning resources: and

Published May 19, 2018

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