High Line Park is a place I'd never heard of before coming to NYC, but now probably my favorite discovery here. I came across it earlier today while wandering around Chelsea, looking for something to eat. It's an urban park in the best sense of the term: a once-abandoned elevated railway line, nearly demolished at one point, then developed into a green space following a local community effort starting way back in 1999. Only the first phase of the park has been completed, and it's only been open for a year, but it's still kind of amazing.
The park is visible from street level, but you have to go up stairs (or an elevator) to enter it. The rail line has been converted to a walkway and esplanade that will stretch for more than a mile once it's completed (right now it's about 10 blocks). Most of the actual rail line is gone, replaced by all sorts of grasses and greenery as well as wooden chairs and benches to relax in. There's lots of shade as well as views of the Empire State Building to the northeast and the Frank Gehry-designed ICA building a few blocks to the west.
The views are perhaps the greatest feature of the park. Since it's built at rooftop level, you see the nearby city from a completely different perspective. In fact, there's one larger seating area where you can look down and watch traffic as a spectator. When you think about New York, you might not consider traffic-watching to be a relaxing pastime, but in fact it somehow accentuates the peacefulness of this place.
I was in Central Park the other day, and it was great. It's always great to visit Central Park! But the High Line is a park for a 21st-century megapolis, using reclaimed space in the most creative and aesthetically-pleasing way possible. I look forward to returning to NYC in a few years, just to see how it's matured.
Photos will be forthcoming once I get back home next week ...