Friday, July 24, 2009

Walk The High Line in The West Village NYC, Phase 1

Welcome to The High Line, Phase 1, Gansevoort to 20th Street
Link to The High Line, Phase 2, 20th to 30th Street, with Intro to Concept for Phase 3
New Yorkers Enjoying the Latest Public Space (NY Times photo)

We had to be creative about our 10,000 steps since our destination was The High Line, which had it's opening last month. No, you can't get 5 miles clocked on the old pedometer between Gansevoort Street and 20th Street, only 10 blocks, so plan on a long approach. What we did to pad up the distance was to get off the #6 train a stop early at East 23rd Street, and then walked south to 14th Street, and over through the West Village to 10th Avenue. We hopped upstairs, and took a quick loop back to the helm (photo above) at Gansevoort. We did a little more step padding at the other end when we finished by passing up the F and the NRW lines on 23rd Street and walking way east to the #6 train.

What we researched and what we saw: (Bibliography at end of post)
The High Line is a park built on a defunct railway that runs 30 feet above Manhattan. It was the idea of Roger Hammond and Joshua David, and has become wildly popular among New Yorkers. Is it only a matter of time before the tour buses come calling?

The elevated rail line, which opened in 1934, was originally designed to replace street tracks that led to many pedestrian deaths. The High Line was built to last -- it can support four fully loaded freight trains -- but it was gradually phased out by trucks and an interstate highway system.

The High Line runs along 10th and 11th Avenues, from 34th Street south to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. The first phase, from Gansevoort to 20th Street, opened to the public June 9, 2009. There are entrance/exits every 2 blocks for easy access -- and escape.

The Standard Hotel straddles the High Line. The park's designers tried to preserve the original details of the railroad, so this new hotel leaves the tracks and trackbed intact.

Looking west from the High Line is Pier 54. Years ago, huge ocean liners docked here. Kids excitedly used to count the smokestacks of the incoming ships as a measure of their size. Didn't one of us wave bon voyage to her sister and new husband on the Queen Mary back in the day??

Today, Pier 54, with its eyecatching steel arch at the entrance, is one of Hudson River Park’s main event/performance spaces.

Looking south, you can appreciate the designers' effort to preserve the look of the original overgrown plants spreading along the rails.

Looking west through the hardy plants, we see the Jersey City skyline in the distance, former home of one of the tramps.

The High Line passes over the Meatpacking District. In 1900, this area, known as the Gansevoort Market, housed 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants. By 2003, only 35 remained, Lamb Unlimited being one of the survivors. Beginning in the late 1990s, the District went through a transformation. High-end boutiques, restaurants and nightspots opened to cater to young professionals and hipsters.

Looking east, along 14th Street, you see the progression from grubby meatpacking plants to dazzling storefront boutiques such as Stella Mc Cartney, Alexander Mc Queen, Yigal Azrouel, and La Perla Black.

Just as back in the 1930s, the elevated trains ran right through buildings, now, after this row of chaises, the walkway leads through an old factory that shelters a cafe area.

We strolled though the remains of the factory, thankful for the coolness of the shade and amazed by the 700 glass panels facing the Hudson, each one a color taken from the river. Just ahead were vending carts offering gelati, drinks and snacks.

The highway angles west at 17th Street and 10th Avenue, affording a view of high-rise apartments and office buildings to the north. At the lower left of the photo are the steps leading down to an amphitheater overlooking 10th Avenue through plate glass windows.

Stop on the way down and find a place to rest, snack, contemplate, or...

... gawk at those seated below, enjoying a bird's-eye view.

It didn't take long for the High Line to become a site for fashion shoots. If you look at the upper right, you can see the photographer lining up his shot.

The New Chelsea Gehry Building. The New York Headquarters for InterActiveCorp, designed by architect of the moment, Frank Gehry, houses a group of Internet businesses that include Expedia,,, Citysearch and Ticketmaster.The nine-story glass structure has been likened to a tall ship in full sail by The New York Times.

Trellised plants are thriving and will fill out to frame and fragment the views in the coming years.

The skyline and storefronts are changing to the east, as well, interjecting the new amongst the new-old ...

... a recently built complex with river-view apartments, and to the left, The General Theological Seminary, dated 1836. Both are towered by The Empire State Building, constructed a hundred years later.

Even bees do it....hang out on the High Line.

What a great performance stage that fire escape window would make if there were some occupant wishing for her 15 minutes of fame, -- or make that unlimited hours of fame. With her found theater, Pattie Heffley performs for the High Line crowd. Check her out on Youtube.

The next to last exit at 18th Street swings out in Chelsea toward more of the changing city to the east.

The last exit is at 20th Street; the offramp veering right is just ahead.

This was the end of the line-- But Phase 2, up to 30th Street, is open as of June, 2011. This gate is gone and the wonders continue...

We took a last look back south before heading onto the metal offramp.

The view from out on the ramp is a great mix of the industrial, residential and conceptual arts.

The High Line exit at 20th Street, with a sign showing the rules of the road and a map.

On the street below the elevated park, we overheard people from the neighborhood explain to tag-a-longs the great resource they find the park to be. The lounges and benches have so far been available for newspaper and book reading, the strollway is a great place to meet and greet, the ampitheater bleachers a great spot for a time out, New York style.

Walking east on 23rd Street grounded us back in the familiar with the awesome spire of the Empire State Building peeking through from midtown Chelsea. We decided to keep it in sight for the rest of the walk, and we did.

 Designing the High Line: Gansevoort Street to 30th Street

 Joel Sternfeld: Walking The High Line

Next week, we're thinking of the woods of Harriman, NY, and maybe an extra outing to Coney Island/Brighton Beach. See ya ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Walk NYC Inwood Park to Fort Tryon Park and Cloisters Medieval Gardens, A Summer Visit

Quote of the Day: Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard

Contents Summary:

  • A Train to 270th St. to Inwood Hill Park (to 190th Street if directly to The Cloisters)
  • Walking Directions to Cloisters from Inwood Hill Park
  • Photos of gorgeous Fort Tryon Park and New Leaf Cafe on the Hudson
  • Photos and captions for the fascinating medieval gardens of The Cloisters
  • Directions home to midtown on the A Train
  •  Recommended Books

We were supposed to meet an AMC group at the corner of Broadway and 207th Street, just above ground from the uptown A train to explore Inwood Hill Park and Fort Tryon Park, and then a visit to the Cloisters.

However... we arrived too late and the group was gone. We decided it would be easy to catch up with them in Inwood Park. Little did we know about the vastness of this northern-most preserve of Manhattan.

Tale of Woe: We headed west on 207th Street and entered the Park at Payson Avenue. But this trail led us back out to the street after only a few yards. The next entrance was a bit of an ascent and at the first fork, we faltered.
From then on, our way alternated between eerily deserted paths and an occasional straggler who had no idea of directions, or even what The Cloisters, our eventual destination, was. One chap babbled on about dinosaurs and geological formations meeting at the vortex there at the tip of Manhattan. We feigned interest but had visions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-enacted in this deserted primordial forest. We finally succumbed, gave up hope of finding our group, and took the nearest downhill trail winding back to civilization.

Luckily, we found Payson Avenue again and followed it south to Riverside Drive where we entered the northern end of Fort Tryon Park, site of The Cloisters Museum and Gardens. (On our winter visit in January '09, Park and Cloisters..., we took the A train directly to 190th Street and entered the park at its southern end.)

The path wound upward. Were we ever going to find our group and The Cloisters?

One of the Tramps takes a breather to contemplate the last views of the street. Note the new fanny back, actually the size of his regular backpack, but remember the emergency room shot on the last Fahnestock Park post? No-o weight on the shoulder, the doctor said. We found this pack is by Northface at Paragon Sports at 18th Street and Broadway. It offered the most zippered compartments, including mesh outer pockets to keep digital devices aerated. It also has a shoulder strap which we figured can be attached in a way to pull some of the weight up from the hips onto the good shoulder when carrying 2 or 3 liters of water, and removed as water is swigged down.

This Tramp felt a lot more secure coming upon a sign to the Cloisters.

Is that our group ahead? Nope, not yet.

That's the George Washington Bridge in the distance. Mies Van Der Rohe called it "the most beautiful building in New York."

Across the river in New Jersey is a building that matches the Cloister's architecture. John D. Rockefeller bought the land and erected this building solely to preserve the view from the Cloisters.

The Cloisters dominates Fort Tryon Park. Later in the day, this lawn and adjoining benches will be full of people relaxing with picnics, pets, and frisbees--or just whiling away the lovely Summer Sunday afternoon sunbathing. In fact, the first bench is where we stopped for lunch.

After our bagels and peanut butter, we decided we needed coffee, so we walked south, taking in this view of the gorge above the Margaret Corbin Drive.

...and we stopped at The New Leaf restaurant set in the park, down the road from the Cloisters for a refreshing iced coffee and Cappuccino, before heading back up to view the museum's medieval gardens.

A Good Decision:
During the beverage break, we decided to take advantage of the 1:00 Cloisters Garden Tour since we had focused on the interior and on the arcades in our last post. The docent was great and we are happy to present some snippets below and more info through links.

Sources for layout and materials of medieval gardens
The first garden in the open atrium is aesthetic and contemplative, and follows the general plan for all medieval gardens. Components of this plan are found in writings of Greeks and Romans: Cato, On Agriculture: De re rustica; Dioscorides Pedanius, De Materia Medica; Pliny the Elder, and later, of the Emperor Charlemagne, who sought to standardize just about everything in the empire, including plantings. Scenes in tapestries and on wallpapers in Egyptian tombs were other valuable sources.