Some of you may have seen last year’s Will Smith remake of Richard Matheson’s ‘I am Legend’, which purports to be set in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan. Whatever the merits of the film, one thing that was interesting was to see the way in which the CGI artists had imagined the way in which nature was ‘repossessing’ the city, with trees, wild animals and rampant vegetation covering the canyons of Manhattan with green.
On the basis that life sometimes imitates art, I was fascinated to read about a 1.5 mile long elevated railway that runs from the Meatpacking District on the Lower West Side through the Chelsea area to freight yards on the Hudson.
The High Line (as it’s known) was originally built in the 1930’s as a safety measure. Prior to this, trains had run down the middle of 10th Avenue, with regular and numerous accidents and fatalities; it was even referred to as ‘Death Avenue’ in those days.
The last train ran on the line in 1980, since when nature has slowly repossessed it, with grasses and bushes taking root. A number of attempts have been made to have the line demolished but the conservationists have won the day for once and the High Line has now become a ‘strip park’ some 30 feet above the streets of the Lower West Side. The site has been landscaped to some extent but the emphasis seems to be on retaining a semi-wild appearance. The first section opened in June, with a second stretch set to open before too much longer. The only disputed area is the old freight yards where the line terminates; that may or may not eventually become a part of the park.
The concept isn’t unique; a similar project in Paris pre-dates the High Line and there are other ventures of this type under way in Chicago & Philadelphia. Still, it’s a great idea, particularly in a city where green space is at a premium and you’re 40 or 50 blocks away from Central Park.