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Stage One

Paradise and Lunch

It’s probably not the first lunch that’s been had on this stretch of the High Line and it surely ain’t gonna be the last.



The Slow Dance

It’s impossible to know the slow choreography that’s involved in a building project unless you happen to witness it unfolding. Strolling through a park — take, for example, the High Line — you’d never guess at the number of steps that have been taken before the ground you walk on is complete.

This was made manifest to me today as I glanced out the window and watched two men at work, moving pavers. Here’s what I think is going on: the large stack of pavers in the foreground has been sitting in that spot for quite some time, and was placed there — on the west side of the High Line — so the men could lay track on the east side. Now, it appears, they are moving each paver — one by one, slowly, gingerly — to get them out of the way so they can prepare the bed that the stack lies on. That bed will become the walkway that hundreds of people pass along each day once this segment of the park is opened.  The process takes about 5 minutes per paver, and unfolds thusly:

Guy #1 climbs the stack and lassos the paver that’s scheduled to move. He steps to the side and levels the concrete beam, gently steering it eastward.







Then he hops down from his pile and points the beam ahead of him, and begins to walk north along the High Line.







The yellow machine follows at a leisurely pace, carrying the brunt of the load. They disappear from my view pretty quickly, and I have no way of knowing where this beam and its fellows ends up.







But about 10 minutes later the two men heave back into view, this time driving the yellow machine in reverse. They repeat the process, following exactly the same steps, until the pile is gone.







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A Railroad Emerges


I’ve been very busy and haven’t visited the actual High Line in a couple of weeks. Yesterday some good friends were in town so I accompanied them, and I got a real surprise when I stepped off the metal stairway of the 20th Street entrance: the crew have laid a good city block’s worth of new track, and installed pavers as well. The naked High Line is no more, at least not here (the photo above looks north from the parapet of the stairway on 20th Street).

If you look closely you can begin to see how it all fits together: the pavers (each with its individual number) and the rail ties.

Farther south, in the finished portion, I snapped this detail, which shows the layers of a paver (remember 1-2-3 Jello?) and the embedded screw that attaches (I presume) to a wooden rail tie. Or maybe to another paver.

No matter; we are seeing the underbelly of the High Line, but pretty soon it’ll all disappear and we’ll have a lovely walk on it.
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The Music of Saws


One thing I wasn’t expecting was the sound of buzz saws. I just didn’t anticipate carpentry on the High Line, but early this morning the men were there with piles of plywood and a circular saw.

I was at the piano, working on a Schumann piece. I didn’t notice the sound of the saw (since I play early in the morning I use headphones) until the piece modulated into a minor chord and suddenly the harmony of saw and music jolted me from the piano bench in the direction of my camera, which luckily wasn’t too far away.

I love carpentry. One of my favorite blogs is Shelter Build, published by the Shelter Institute in Maine. Just the other day they did a piece about Timber Frame Barns and Garages and it’s been lingering in the back of my mind ever since. One of these years I’ll get to Maine for the Institute’s summer barn building course. During my sabbatical from Random House I built a fine woodshed, but that was years ago and ever since I’ve harbored an enduring fantasy to build another, bigger, building — this one with electricity.

Well, thanks to the High Line guys my carpentry Jones is being satisfied, if only vicariously. I wonder how the hammers will go with something jazzy.


They come and go….

There hasn’t been much action lately. Workmen come and go (talking of….Michaelangelo? Popsicle Toes?).

They carry materials….


and they haul materials….


and they work together to move stuff around.

Some of them seem almost balletic in their movements.


It feels like they are nipping and tucking. Getting ready for something much more significant.



As someone who has both renovated and built a house from scratch I find the presence of rebar disprortionately exciting. In relation to what, you might ask? Anything, really.

So this morning I was thrilled to see that, since last I gazed out my window, little piles of bright green rebar have been laid on the High Line. Notice (you’ll have to enlarge the photo to do this – just double-click it) how the concrete pilings have all been labeled with a super-huge Sharpie (or some other painting tool I obviously now need to own): SL9-T. The High Line is like a gigantic puzzle and all the pieces are carefully marked before assembly. Even the rails have been inscribed (in yellow) with some sort of labeling system, but I can’t make it out. And see how the rails rest on the concrete pilings, across those little iron beds that have been embedded in the concrete? They’ll get moved around for sure, but remember that you saw it here first.

I changed my lens to the 70 – 210 mm (yeah, okay, technically it’s Ann’s lens but I co-opted it long ago) to capture some of the detail that eluded the smaller (18 – 7- mm) wide angle lens.



We’ve been warned before but after many snow flame-outs I think everyone in New York went to bed last night doubting this “blizzard” would amount to much. And here we are with a city-wide snow day.

Meantime, down on the High Line, the snow gathers on stacks of rail ties.



Taking Bucky downstairs for a quick pee this morning I was greeted with a sign in our elevator bearing the headline: “Notice of High Line Deck Waterproofing.” Snapped it with my iPhone. Juggling a leash with an impatient dog at the other end didn’t help, but you get the picture: we are advised that “Deck Waterproofing” is soon to begin. The sign explains that “three coats of waterproofing, primer and two finish” will be applied. “Because concrete waterproofing is a very weather dependent operation,” they go on, “it is difficult to provide an exact schedule.”  And then the kicker: “The waterproofing operation is likely to be accompanied by odors…” Luckily this operation took place on a cold January day so there was no need to close a window.



Pouring Concrete

I caught these fellows in the act of pouring concrete early one morning. I had Bucky with me and we had just dropped Ann off at Penguin. Walked back up on Tenth Avenue, rather than the bike path, and was rewarded with the sight of a large, loud, concrete mixer with a very long piping system attached to its arm. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a view from my window of the concrete being actually poured onto the High Line bed (meetings, tarnation). This was taken with an iPhone, so not such great quality.




But wait, the men in Hasmat suits are back, and they are painting the High Line white.  The smell is still overbearing.  They have a particular way of doing this, a choreography that seems to work well:  all the guys walk east with their sprayers and then they walk west, following the east/west axis of the High Line.

It doesn’t take long, and soon the Highline is bright white, ready for its next moment.