Friday, June 26, 2009

Rain is Good/Photos From the High Line

When I was growing up in the 1970’s, Washington St./10th Avenue from Gansevoort stretching north to 17th was derelict and devoid of life but for the meat packing plants in the daytime and a few sex bars at night. The High Line, an old elevated rail was mostly useful for the shade it provided on a hot summer day. In spite of that shade, parts of cow rotted beneath and for all the time we spent on the streets we stayed clear of there. I do have nostalgia for people, events and places of the period but this is halved by my memory of the very real squalor and decrepitude most of us experienced daily--and (as a charming offshoot of that poverty) an assault I suffered on a street nearby.

I first heard there was a movement to make the High Line into a legitimate people place several years ago. Given the difficulty of making and implementing any big idea in any big city, I can’t say I had high hopes. Now that I’ve experienced it, I feel a bit guilty about my meager expectation.

The realization of this ambitious plan is life-changing for New York. High Line designers James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio & Renfro pay more than architectural lip-service to the origins and surroundings of the place they embrace every aspect and give it new life. Leftover decay (minus the stench) is glamorized and incorporated into it. The lightly fragrant plantings, the furnishings, the paving all integrate gracefully into sweeping views, what was before, is now and ever shall be.

Oh sure, a few people will come along and ruin it for everyone with tagging, battery or perhaps a drunken suicide or two, but in spite of them, New York has more than a lovely new park or tourist attraction, it has reclaimed a part of it’s history, re-invented a neighborhood, provided an experience, and built a peaceful monument to what hundreds of people can do together for the good old-fashioned enjoyment of all.

Congratulations to Robert Hammond and Joshua David who first created a community-based group called Friends of the High Line to promote the idea of turning it into an elevated park, the City of New York who threw weight and 50 million smackers behind it, Andre Balazs, who opened the Standard Hotel that straddles the line at W. 13th St. and thousands of people who donated their time and money to complete this phase (which cost 152 million).

If you are inspired by this project (or my pix), please donate, volunteer or show support in any way that suits you: The High Line

1 comment:

Brian said...

They are doing this to downtown LA too - almost 6 full blocks converted to public park and walks...

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