Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, June 26, 2009

getting high in NYC

I am proud to be a New Yorker.

New Yorkers love to complain, and I admit, I do my share. But not this time. I am insanely grateful to the powers that be: the NYC Parks Department, the extremely talented designers, the many wealthy benefactors. What an insanely wonderful gift this park is! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to The High Line.

A single post can't do it justice. I'd need one to extoll the landscape design (James Corner Field Operations together with Piet Oudolf), another to praise the architecture (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), several posts to cover individual plants, and I'd still want to rave about the synergistic combination of the Manhattan skyline with the planted landscape.

As an entirely inadequate introduction to the park, here's a little history.

The High Line is an elevated railroad structure built in the 1930s, running from Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district to 34th Street, next to the Javits Center. It allowed for the movement of freight by rail without clogging street traffic, and spurs were built to enter directly into the second floors of warehouses. Abandoned since 1980, the tracks were quickly colonized by hardy volunteer plants, which inspired the naturalized planting style of The High Line park today.

South of 30th Street, The High Line is owned by the City of New York. It was donated to the city by CSX Transportation, which still owns the northern portion (30th Street to 34th Street). Although neighborhood residents organized to save the High Line from destruction in 1999, construction on the first section didn't begin until 2006.

The second section (20th to 30th Street) opened in 2011. Those of us who thought nothing could top the first installment were stunned and amazed to discover the delights of The High Line, part two. The future of the third section is tied to the development of The Hudson Rail Yards; construction should begin in 2012.

The High Line opens at 7 am, a great time to have it almost to yourself. For more details about hours, directions, and access, visit www.thehighline.org.

Everywhere you look, the juxtaposition of bricks, mortar, and steel with sweeps of prairie flowers and ornamental grasses tells you you're not in Kansas anymore.

A grove of 3-flowered maple trees (Acer triflorum) softens a corner of the elevated railway.

Drought tolerant stonecrop (Sedum telephium 'Red Cauli') and companion grasses naturalize between concrete planks, imitating the original volunteer plants that colonized the railroad tracks.

Who could resist the wooden chaises, positioned for lazy gazing across the Hudson?

I struggle to communicate the significance of this park. So do me a favor, don't take my word for it. Get down there and see it for yourself. You won't be sorry.


Georgia said...

One of the things on my to-do list in my new city.

MA said...

Brilliant garden! Incredible gift. I hope to come see it someday soon and will let the 2 Ellens be my guides.

Ellen Zachos said...

Thanks, MA. It is indeed a gift to the city. I hope you have the chance to enjoy it soon.

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