A Visit to the High Line - NYC
Thursday, May 23, 2019
I was recently in New York City seeing the city perhaps for the first time as a tourist. I grew up in the city and moved out some 30 years ago. This was really my first visit back to see my old stomping grounds and take in all the city has to offer. It is amazing how much you take for granted when you live there.
During my stay, I went to a place called the High Line. The high line is an old above ground train track. I thought it was perhaps part of the NY subway system that was just above ground. Something about that just didn’t seem to make sense though. I had never known of any of the subway system to be down 10th avenue. This area was the old meat packing area. People didn’t really live in this area although many did work there. I started to look up some information about the history of the high line and things finally started to make sense.
Back in the mid-1800’s freight trains on street-level tracks, delivered food to lower Manhattan. This created dangerous conditions for pedestrians. This area of 10th avenue became known as “Death Avenue” and by 1910, more than 540 people had been killed by trains. To help alleviate the situation, in the 1920’s the railroad hired men on horses to protect pedestrians. These men were known as the “West Side Cowboys”. They would wave red flags to warn pedestrians of oncoming trains. Here’s a picture I found of Death Avenue and a West Side Cowboy.
At some point, the NY City Transit Authority ordered the removal of street-level crossings. A plan was then put in place to remove tracks from the streets and create an elevated rail line. The elevated line was fully operational in 1933 and it was called the West Side Elevated Line. This line transported millions of tons of meat, dairy, and produce. The lines cut directly through some buildings, creating easy access for factories like the National Biscuit Company (aka Nabisco), which is now the home of Chelsea Market.
Between 1960 and 1970 train use died while trucking increased. By the 1980’s all traffic stopped. There was an order to demolish the structure. In 1991, the five blocks of the structure were demolished when a warehouse was converted into an apartment building. In 1999, the High Line owner CSX Transportation became opened to proposals for the structure’s reuse. In 2006 the CSX donated ownership of the structure to the City of New York.
Today the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long green way featuring 500+ species of plants and trees. The park is maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. The High Line has become a global inspiration for cities to transform unused industrial zones into dynamic public spaces. Here are pictures I took during my visit.