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The High Line

February 10, 2012

Rheanna Sand

 

I've been a resident of New York for almost a whole week now, and after wading through immigration procedures, HR documents, housing agreements, utility contracts, and banking arrangements, I'm ready to explore the big city and all the science-y things it has to offer.

You would think I would start at the Museum of Natural History or the Academy of Sciences, but that's way too obvious. Instead, I was brought to an incredible example of urban re-purposing that aims to bring nature and serenity back into the Big Apple.

The High Line park is a 22-block-long elevated freight train track that was built in response to an epidemic of train-car wrecks in the early 1900s. In fact, so many people died from train collisions that 10th avenue was called "Death Avenue" for a time. The elevated tracks, which ran through the middle of blocks rather than over the traffic, made life on the West Side of Manhattan much, much safer.

 

But over the years, trains were replaced by trucks, and by the 80's, the tracks were entirely train-free and in danger of being completely torn down. Enter the "Friends of the High Line," a group of conservationists who thought there might be a more noble fate for the tracks: an urban parkway. City officials eventually saw it that way too (although they were ultimately convinced by the tax revenue it would bring in), and voila! In the 2000-ies, the High Line Park was officially opened. The first phase opened in 2009, and the second in 2011.

 

Photo by Walking Geek (Flickr)

While not terribly lush this time of year, the High Line does bring a sense of peace and serenity to the bustling meat packing district. Parkland juxtaposed with parking lots. Trees and shrubs where trains used to be. Green space above the grey. The hard streets of New York softened by waving blades of grass. I, for one, will be a frequent visitor once spring rolls around.

 

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