Eureka Children

Hightail it to the Highline

“If you are in New York, you have to see the Highline!” advised a friend. So I took the subway to the appropriate station, stepped out in the winter sun and walked for a couple of blocks to arrive at one end of the Highline. ‘Block’ is the New York way of saying from one traffic crossing to another. ‘Highline’, as one would expect in New York, was not some HIGH multi-storeyed building, but the name given to a RAIL line that once serviced the meat district of New York.

Growing significance

As the city grew, the butchers were moved out and the rail line became redundant, disused and, over time, a drug and crime hub. It was partly demolished but, thanks to some intelligent activism, the civil society group called “Friends of the Highline” saved this 2.3 km length of rail line. Using a palette of native wild plants and some fine design, the derelict rail line was turned into a public park. Inspired by a similar project in Paris, the Highline has gone on to become one of the most significant public intervention in New York.

I climbed up the metal stairs to reach a raised urban plaza brimming with tourists. Clearly it was on the agenda of everyone coming to New York. Even though it was winter and the grasses, shrubs and trees were virtually dormant, it wasn’t difficult to visualise how this would transform in spring and through the seasons.

As I negotiated the tourist footfall and reached its end, I came upon a view of the Hudson Bay and the most expensive privately-funded public intervention: the ‘Vessel’.

Once a defunct urban rail line, The ‘Highline’ has been turned into a green corridor in an open space-starved city. Such examples and not just concretised river fronts should inform our urban interventions.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 10:08:35 AM |

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