High Line Park - NYC :
Eden on the “El”
Manhattan Island’s newly reopened urban greenway blooms.
Manhattan Island’s newly reopened urban greenway “High Line Park,” perched on an abandoned “el” track stretching back into time, boldly reclaims renewal by rescuing ruins.
“It’s a piquino paradise in the sky: I love it!” raves Zoraida Robinson, a hard-working Puerto Rican immigrant with an eye for al fresco retreats. “Here we can get away from the city without leaving the city.”
Miraculous Green Getaway
The aerial Eden Zoraida is praising is Manhattan Island’s recently revamped “High Line Park,” a miraculous green getaway on an abandoned 19th-century “el” (elevated railway) 25 feet above the earth surface, stretching from Gansevoort Street (in the Meatpacking District) to the West Side Yard (near the Jacob Javitz Convention Center) for about a mile.
Saved by Mayor Bloomberg
The pleasant prelapsarian park, a black steel structure with naturally occurring grasses plus man-made plantings (incidentally, almost demolished by former mayor Giuliani but saved by present mayor Bloomberg), is the brainchild of architect James Corner and the firm Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro—as well as the flying Dutchman Piet Oudolf, who introduced over 210 plant species (liatris, coneflowers, smokebush, sumac).
Upon the concrete walkways, model-like mothers in miniskirts and Nikes practice heliopropism and push baby strollers along as if every day was Fashion Week. Daytrippers and drifters lounge on the Ipe-wood benches like self-satsified smirking geckos dreaming in the sun. But best of all, a lonely pilgrim (me!) spots an obvious “flaneur” (loafer) sporting a beret-basque and reading Remembrance of Things Past on a chaise longue, time-traveling with Proust, but munching McDonald’s rather than Madeleines.
Indeed, the uniquely American recycled ex-railway overlooking the Hudson River still evocates the 1800s, as if a mis-en-scene from Luc Santé’s Lowlife. Adding to its atmosphere of peaceful reflection is the absence of annoying vendors and hot-dog carts, Frisbee throwers and breakdancer hiphopsters, and even artists are banned from selling their works within. No dogs. No bicycles. No skateboards.
Oasis and Refuge
Verily, for landscape architects this is virgin territory, an “oasis” or “refuge” reclaiming urban renewal from crumbling ruins, with inevitably imitators plotting similar schemes for gentrifying conurbations (such as Detroit and Chicago) throughout the country.
Criticized by some as “costly” (nearly $200 million) and “apocalyptic”--like a disused railroad rusting in the elements and sprouting evil weeds--most New Yorkers nevertheless regard this “el” as swell.
Experiment in Green
The perennial park is an impressive “linear” experiment in “green,” exploding with a profusion of imported wildflowers that would make even Van Gogh gasp. Panoramic Hudson River views aside, awash with painterly tugs, trawlers, and trimorans, the High Line drives home the apt conclusion that the thriving port of maritime Manhattan is not just a sprawling impersonal city, after all, but really can be an intimate paradise “island.”
(For more info on Manhattan’s High Line Park, visit its official website: (www.thehighline.org). Or contact the Friends of the High Line: (529 West 20th Street, Suite 8W, New York, NY, 10011: tel: 212.206.9118; web: [email@example.com])
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