NFT Maps: 5 & 8
Built on top of a disused portion of elevated freight train tracks, The High Line is at once both an escape from the chaos of the city's streets and a celebration of Manhattan's West Side, especially its architecture. The first section between Gansevoort Street and West 20th Street opened in 2009 and was an instant success, proving that open space could be hip and stylish, and causing the city tax assessor's heart to race at the thought of all the surrounding property that suddenly deserved a second look. Section 2, which opened in June 2011, doubled the length of the park up to 30th Street. Section 3, still in the planning stages, follows the elevated track to its end at 34th Street.
The rail line was built in the 1930s as part of the West Side Improvement project that eliminated dangerous at-grade railroad crossings and alleviated terrible traffic along Manhattan's West Side. The same project expanded Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. As trucking became more efficient, train traffic on the rail line slowed. By 1980 the entire line shut down and quickly fell into disrepair. Many wanted to demolish the line, which was prohibitively expensive, but a grassroots group, Friends of the High Line, slowly built support that became a groundswell, thanks in part to a mayoral administration that didn't mind investing in high-end development. The final cost of sections 1 and 2 was $152.3 million, including $112 million from the city, $20 million from the federal government and nearly $50 million in privately raised funds.
The High Line is open from 7 am to 10 pm daily (7 pm during winter and 11 pm during summer). The entire thing is wheelchair accessible although there are limited access points along the way. Dogs and bicycles are strictly prohibited, though there are bike racks at street level at various access points. Closest subway access is the A, C, and E along Eighth Avenue or the 1 along Seventh Avenue. The M11, M14, M23 and M34 buses also travel toward the park.
The park has several environmentally friendly touches. The flora planted along the High Line is representative of the region's native ecology. Half of the plants are native to North America and 30% are native to the Northeast, making the park a natural home to birds and butterflies. The park also absorbs and uses rainwater that would otherwise be finding its way into gutters. Although the philosophy is low impact, the High Line has had a decidedly high impact on the surrounding neighborhood. In addition to providing an aesthetically pleasing path from the Meatpacking District north into the heart of Chelsea's art galleries, the High Line has attracted people and businesses to a part of the city that was perhaps better known for its untz-untz dance clubs and Scores. The High Line has been a catalyst for both architectural and cultural development in the area, including The Whitney's new second home in the Meatpacking District.
Take a quick survey of the architecture by simply looking up; The Standard
, which straddles the High Line just south of 14th Street, sports a posh restaurant as well as a beer garden, both directly underneath the High Line. Two other stunning architectural gems visible from the High Line (looking west) are Frank Gehry's first commercial office building in New York, Barry Diller's IAC Building
, and Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue
condo building right across the street. The IAC is one of the most wonderfully luminescent buildings in all of New York, and Nouvel's façade of hundreds of differently sized panes of glass became an instant classic. Of course, the work on the High Line itself, by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, is simply amazing. The 10th Avenue Square area, with amphitheater-style seating and a living-room-window view of the northbound traffic of Tenth Avenue, is a favorite as well as a perfect place for a picnic (hit up the nearby Chelsea Market food vendors).
While weekend days during summer on the High Line is already a madhouse, we recommend an early-morning or evening stroll during spring and fall. The cityscape views at night are stunning; early morning is quiet and generally cool, until the sun moves above the skyscrapers to the east of the park. Really, there is no bad time to visit the High Line. The views will be great no matter what time of day it is.
Great food options abound nearby, including hip Cookshop (Map 8)
, French haven La Lunchonette (Map 8)
, neighborhood standby Red Cat (Map 8)
, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Spice Market (Map 5)
, and warm Italian Bottino (Map 8)
. Want cheaper fare? Hit greasy spoon Hector's (Map 5)
or wait for one of the gourmet trucks to pull up around the corner from the Gansevoort stairs, or go DIY by buying food at Chelsea Market (Map 8)
. On the High Line itself, look out for stands selling artisanal popsicles, ice cream, tacos and coffee.
At night, you can hang around to rock out at The Highline Ballroom (Map 8)
, or drink at pubs The Half King (Map 8)
, Brass Monkey (Map 5)
, or The Standard's Biergarten (Map 5)
, or, better yet, walk the streets of the West 20s in search of gallery openings (read: free wine and cheese). No matter how you slice it, a visit to the High Line will only make you happier. We promise.