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Hanging garden is New York's railway to the future
14 June 2009
Agence France Presse


Source : http://www.thehighline.org

With his fighter's build and hard hat, construction inspector Gerard Zimmermann doesn't look the sentimental type. But at New York's newest park, sentiments are not easily kept in check.

After three years of work to transform an abandoned elevated railway into a hanging garden, Zimmermann brims with the pride of a new parent.

"Do you like it?" he keeps asking passersby. "What, not even a smile?" he pleads to a pretty young woman.

The woman smiles. Zimmermann beams.

"A lot of sweat went into this," he says of the High Line Park, which opened to the public for the first time last week. "And a little blood. And a few tears."

If the creators of the High Line wondered whether the city would embrace the eccentric, slender addition to New York's green space, they were soon reassured.

Already by early morning, mid-week, dozens of tourists, students and retirees, and a few skipping work, meandered along the old railway looking out over Manhattan's Meatpacking District and the Hudson River.

Wild flowers, herbs and other vegetation planted in and around old rail tracks drew gasps of admiration from residents used to little more than brick and concrete.

One young man intently photographed a bunch of modest-looking flowers. A woman gazed admiringly at tufts of grass planted in gaps in the concrete.

"The grass -- it's so artistic," the woman enthused to a passerby.

The happy crowd was following tracks that until three decades ago carried trainloads of carcasses daily into meathouses to be turned into sausages, mince and steaks.

That blood-filled past belonged to a New York stuffed with gritty industries, far from today's reliance on the more virtual worlds of Wall Street, media and tourism.

The Meatpacking District had 250 slaughterhouses and processing plants by 1900. And in 1934, freight trains were routed onto the newly built High Line to prevent deadly accidents in the street -- a danger previously addressed by having a horseman ride in front of the engine.

Then changing technology and a surge in truck traffic killed the old system, turning the Meatpacking District into a ghost town. In 1980 the last meat train rolled out with a consignment of frozen turkeys and the High Line was abandoned.

"There used to be 100 rail cars coming in a day," said Miro Rames, 65, at one of the last surviving meatpackers, Jobbagy's.

"Every door you see now had a meathouse. There was nothing else. Then they got Mexicans out west to chop it up and ship it here and it killed us."

The High Line seemed fated for the wrecking ball until 1999, when two local residents proposed re-imagining this symbol of urban decay as a symbol of city's future.

It was still not until April 2006 before preservation work began and even now only one part of the line, about 1-1/2 miles long, has been made into a park. Another section approximately the same length is due to open next year and there are hopes to save a third piece.

But what started as a quixotic preservation campaign became a gravy train attracting New York's ever-restless real estate developers, architects and celebrities.

Just the prospect of this green ribbon of renewal was enough to fuel a construction boom, with buildings designed by the likes of Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry popping up in parallel to the park.

Hollywood stars and clothes designers, already patrons of the neighborhood's trendy boutiques and restaurants, became backers and funders. Before the public were allowed to set foot in the place, the city's beau monde came to drink champagne and admire the views.

As Michael Bloomberg, the city's billionaire mayor, said at the ribbon cutting ceremony: "Ten years ago, detractors thought the High Line was an eyesore. Thankfully, there were a handful of people who looked at the High Line and saw also an extraordinary gift."

The High Line rescue team also included ordinary New Yorkers like Marlene Litwin, 74, who volunteered with other amateurs to collect wild seeds from the derelict tracks for replanting in the renovated version.

"Things were growing wild all over. We walked around the plants and looked for seeds," she said. "They taught us which were bird droppings and which were seeds. I didn't know the difference!"

New York's feisty press is giving the park rave reviews -- much better than those for what many consider a bizarre project to ban traffic from the teeming heart of Times Square.

The landscaping echoes the abandoned look, the herbs give off deliciously un-New York scents, and there are even deck chairs that roll on the old rails.

The High Line has a long way to go before matching the scope and sophistication of the world's pioneering overhead railway conversion, the Promenade Plantee in Paris.

Being New York, the delicate park looks out on crumbling rent-control buildings, patches of graffiti and unromantic car lots.

But everyone agrees that something beautiful has been added to New York's gritty landscape.

"Before, you'd come up here and see junk and rusty rails. There was trash, old furniture, sofas," said Elsa Shartsis, a lawyer and urban planner. "This is a terrific achievement."

Rames looked up at the hanging garden from the street with mixed emotions.

"This whole place changed. You can't really criticize anyone. It's not for the worse -- it's just different," he said, his white apron streaked with blood. "They did a nice job. But it's like being in a different time zone for me. The twilight zone."
 

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Not sure why this isn't talked about more. This is a fantastic project, that i think just had the 1st stage opened to the public. Has anyone taken a strole along it yet?
 

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I probably won't visit the park until December when the sky gets dark early, then I would take some nice night shots. :D
 

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I live a few blocks from the Gansevoort entrance. The High Line is wonderful, but unfortunately like so many other things in Manhattan, it is overrun with too many people to really enjoy... I find i visit less often than I did when it opened in June. Perhaps winter will slow the hoards of people down to a tolerable level.

I posted a photo set on my flickr. (slideshow)
 

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I live a few blocks from the Gansevoort entrance. The High Line is wonderful, but unfortunately like so many other things in Manhattan, it is overrun with too many people to really enjoy... I find i visit less often than I did when it opened in June. Perhaps winter will slow the hoards of people down to a tolerable level.

I posted a photo set on my flickr. (slideshow)
nice pics! It's a lovely, lively area, the rooftop at Gansevoort is one of my favorite spots.

My only problem with the park is that it closes too early in the summer.
 

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I live a few blocks from the Gansevoort entrance. The High Line is wonderful, but unfortunately like so many other things in Manhattan, it is overrun with too many people to really enjoy... I find i visit less often than I did when it opened in June. Perhaps winter will slow the hoards of people down to a tolerable level.

I posted a photo set on my flickr. (slideshow)
I also found it to be beautiful back in June, when it was first open. Now, a lot of the plants are dried up (dead?) and it's not as colorful. That's why i'll wait until the winter when the sun sets early and I'll get pics at night. :D
 

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University of HK / 香港大&#23416
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Hi, what is the adress of the park? Maybe I will visit this park if I will go to NYC next year.
well, there is no 'adress' per se.

wiki:
The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattan, which has been redesigned and planted as a greenway. The High Line park will eventually run from the former 34th Street freightyard, near the Javits Convention Center, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to Gansevoort Street (one block below West 12th Street) in the Meat Packing District of the West Village.
 
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