Its construction having begun in 2006, the Highline is a city park built above street level on a re-purposed aerial train track. The idea came from a similar park in Paris which I have never seen. The use of otherwise abandoned and derelict space is brilliant and a beautiful greenway was created for all to enjoy without claiming an inch of extra city footprint. The skyborn garden is over a mile long and, now in early summer, lush and colorful.
Construction will have taken almost a decade as the final section is about to be opened to the public. Said public’s interest and acceptance has been unanimous. The Highline was designed and planted skillfully and while Marie could write a dissertation about the garden design and choice of plants, even I must admit the place as charm despite the crowd, un certain je ne sais quoi, complex mixture of vegetation and urban looks, surrounded by a mix of cobble stone streets, old constructions and modern glass buildings.
And therein lies the rub. As always when a spot becomes popular, real estate around the Highline seems to have exploded in a frenzy of high-end projects. I have never seen so many construction sites within such a small area. Our last walk did not even span the entire length of the park and we must have seen somewhere between 10 and 15 different construction sites at various levels of excavation or vertical expansion.
The staggering success of the Highline comes at a heavy price for its neighborhood; towers are going up, the new replaces the old and people flock in large numbers, dollars in hand. They will probably pay a fortune to own a condo right on the elevated greenway, where tourists and New Yorkers alike will form a continuous procession to look at plants and peer into their living room a stone’s throw away.
Sadly, the new buildings going up also radically change the exposure of the flowerbeds and planting will have to be adjusted. It is almost impossible to imagine what the area will be like in another decade, but it most certainly will not be the Highline we know today. But then again, today’s park is a radical change from the trains that used to run on it not so long ago.
The city constantly changes, like a living organism. It shrinks and grows and rises and plunges, in turn shiny and dark, happy and hurt, busy and depressed. Like ants in a colony, humans endlessly flow through its arteries – except that there is no queen. Each ant for itself. The food is in turn scarce and plentiful. Two main ingredients to that food, money and hope.
Most of us retain, it seems, very little of the former. It must be the latter that drives the colony.