Before the High Line was built in the 30s and freight traffic was lifted three stories in the air over the west side of New York City, cowboys on horseback got their daily exercise by riding in front of street-level trains to make sure no accidents occurred between pedestrians and machines. While the trains and cowboys are gone these days (with the exception of a few Brooklyny hipsters sporting proper facial hair and headgear), lots of people still utilize the newly-opened High Line to do some light exercise of their own at what’s become the coolest if not the only elevated park in town.
Part of the park’s charming innovation is the integration of the old and new. Some of the original tracks are still there surrounded by modern architecture within a design that combines “meandering concrete pathways” and “naturalistic plantings.” Everything feels sustainable, green, alive and real—part of history as well as part of pushing whatever impulse pushes it forward.
The High Line suggests a new form of exercise/health/fitness (the theme of this month’s issue, by the way), one that involves the stimulation of the whole being. You can walk and think at The High Line. You can sit and hang. You can be outside, at a park, in the city and still feel like you’re in a museum. Art is all around you; you are art. There is no need to run, time yourself or check your heart rate. Just allow yourself to assimilate into what’s around you and notice the jigsaw construction that is the city and, yes, the world around you. When you see how nature and concrete mix and experience the synthesis, you feel more whole yourself.
An elevated park does come with some connotations, I suppose. There’s a zenny air about the place for sure, but in no way is it pretentious or exclusive. The High Line is a public park project all the way, built (mostly) by the people (barring some private donors) and for the people. It’s all about sneakers and strollers, young and old, near and far.
High above Manhattan’s 10th avenue and the hustle of fashion and commerce are the makings of a new kind of gym for the 21st Century. And the only membership fee you need to pay is a short trip west. http://thehighline.org.