SPECIAL GUEST POST BY MANNAHATTAMAMMA
Sometimes New York gets it right. In the middle of the rainiest, coldest, grayest June in the history of all Junes, a bright spot: The High Line Park, ten years in the planning, has opened to the public. You can literally rise above the city streets and walk an idyllically meandering path from Gansevoort Street to 20th street (eventually the park will extend to Penn Station).
So many people — locals and tourists alike — are delighted by this new park that, in true New York fashion, on opening weekend there was a line to get in. But last Monday afternoon, when I was there, I saw only handfuls of people walking along, all with the same half-smile on their faces, admiring the park planners’ attention to detail, which Robin Pogrebin catalogs in her NY Times review.
The joy with which this park has been received suggests to me that New Yorkers are starved for public green space. It’s true, as one blogger wrote, that the High Line winds through real estate that I will never in my life be able to afford, and also true that I couldn’t afford the $1,000 ticket to the High Line benefit — hell, I probably won’t ever be able to afford to stay at the new hotel that straddles the park. But I can still sit on one of the wooden chaise longues (cleverly parked on rollers along the old rails) and stare out at the river, or lounge on the wooden “viewing platform” that looks uptown along Tenth Avenue.
Many people have applauded this park as a testament to creative urban planning and persistence; it is surely that. But what if we also used it as a call to arms, to insist that our city planners turn their attention from high-rise glass boxes to creating public oases like the High Line? I mean, yes, plunking aluminum lawn chairs in the middle of Times Square is whimsical as hell, but is that really how we want to define “public space?”
The High Line proves that we can do much, much better — let’s hope it’s not a fluke but instead the start of a trend.
Thanks for the guest post, Mannahattamamma! I’m wondering: did you think the park was a little *too* cleaned up? Some indicators are that it could feel a little more like Battery Park City — glossy and soulless, like a patio to the new Meatpacking Dist luxury hotels — than like something that belongs in New York (especially atop an old elevated train line).
At the same time, I have to say that I was surprised how much I liked the new Standard Hotel. It seemed vastly more interesting than most of the steel and glass tombstones going up downtown — and not just because the rooms apparently afford lots of rated R material for High Line strollers below!
Well, yes, High Line is a little “glossy,” but at the same time, the path takes you past peeling billboards, rooftops cluttered with discarded appliances and rusted wiring, and the occasional ramshackle apartment building. And the omnipresent rumble of 10th avenue cuts through the preciousness, too. I’m sure the Standard Hotel is super fabu inside, but the facade of the building looks relatively gritty – probably very expensive grit, but gritty nevertheless – sort of like the (very expensive) sanded steel of the stairways and railings.
All in all, I’d say much less precious and sterilised than Batter Park – and really, do we MISS the overwhelming stench of blood and rotted meat that used to pervade the entire meatpacking district?