If you were asked to identify the best city blocks for walking, what would you say? I can only speak from experience, but I would say Manhattan’s High Line, built from the city’s industrial remnants, is the most pleasurable space to stroll that I’ve ever been.
The park does what a city should do for the senses — it inspires imagination. New York City seems like a futuristic place from a Superman comic book when experienced from the High Line. A Gehry building in the background, the Standard Hotel that bridges over the park, a glass encased seating area looming over 10th Avenue, as well as the towering presence of the city itself all add to this feel. But the native species of plants that smell of the ocean, the opportunities for people watching and the vendors selling food remind the visitor that this park is not the future.
The High Line is open from 7a.m. to 10 p.m and admission is free. The lighting in the evening is remarkable; and there’s wooden chairs that move back and forth, inspired by the history of the structure. And biking to the High Line from Brooklyn is fun. From North Brooklyn where I lived, it’s easy to hop over the Williamsburg Bridge, dart through Chinatown and navigate across town on 9th St. And then, there you are, at what I think is the grandest place to walk, anywhere. The park is well connected to other parts of the city too. For the non-biker, there’s a number of trains and buses nearby and eventually the High Line will extend beyond 20th St to end at 33th St, near the city’s transportation hub and Hell’s Kitchen.
The High Line was built in the 1930’s as a massive public-private infrastructure project to elevate freight traffic (mostly food products) from the street level, a dangerous hazard since the 1840’s. When the High Line was in use, goods traveled by train directly to the doorstep — or even inside — the City’s factories. But the High Line has been without trains since the 1980’s. Citizen advocacy as well as government partnerships led to the preservation of certain sections of the former railway. According to the conservancy responsible for managing the park and raising funds, Friends of the High Line: “new tax revenues created by the public space will be greater than the costs of construction.”
So what do you think, what are the best few blocks for walking you’ve been to?