Thursday, November 4, 2010

Death Avenue

Today, I took a Sunday afternoon stroll along the High Line.  The High Line is a recently opened New York City park that's built on a former elevated freight railroad that ran until the 1980's from Spring Street to 34th Street.  Apparently, after New York City authorized the construction of railroad tracks down the west side of Manhattan in the 1850's, so many accidents occurred between the trains and street level traffic that Tenth Avenue became known as Death Avenue.  In 1930, the city built a 30 foot high elevated freight line to eliminate these traffic fatalities as well as to provide a warehouse to freight car service for the businesses in the meatpacking district (the high line runs through the center of numerous buildings which, I'm sure, reduced the rate of theft as well).  Some artsy fartsy landscape architect New Yorker types have recently taken this old railway, planted a bunch of pretty flowers and trees, put up some clever seating, and turned it into a lovely park.

Now, mind you, the wind chill factor today was negative one, so it was not a long stroll, but I did explore some of the newly opened downtown section.  (Gansevoort Street through 20th street was opened in June and the remaining 14 blocks will open sometime in the summer of 2010).  I walked up the two short flights at Little West 12th Street with my shivering friend, Zakiya, and was immediately charmed.  The original tracks had been left where they were and trees and flowers had been planted artfully around them alongside wooden chairs, tables, and a row of wooden chaise lounges overlooking the Hoboken skyline.  Not only was it oddly quiet a mere three stories above the traffic, but it was also a completely different bird's eye view of a neighborhood I had visited often.  I had an image of people walking their dogs, chatting, and biking down the path in the warm summer sun (maybe a bit of wishful thinking in the frigid weather).  I had found a lovely oasis of nature in the middle of the ungainly meatpacking district (which is in turns smelly and dirty and disgustingly bridge-and-tunnel trendy).  A little square of peaceful nature is a very valuable thing to have in this city.  I folded up its memory and put it in my pocket to keep until a warm day when I need to hear chirping birds and feel the wind on my face.

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