The much-anticipated opening of Section Two of the High Line will take place soon, sometime during June. The 9th would have special special resonance because it’s the second anniversary of the park’s opening in 2009. The 8th would get a jump on that day. But beyond guessing at the opening date what’s interesting to me is the question: how will our experience of the High Line change?
Here are a few early answers:
1. The new section of the High Line runs through a neighborhood that’s much more residential than the southern section. Visitors to the park will have views into the apartments and lofts of people who live along the old viaduct and call it home. How will this change the experience of walking through the park, both by day and by night? It’s unlikely that anyone who lives in view of the park will put on the kind of show that guests to the Standard Hotel do, but who knows. In any case, there’s no doubt that the northern section will create a new sense of intimacy between visitor and resident.
2. The lawn between 22nd – 23rd Streets will offer a whole new way to experience the High Line: while lying down. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the park in the first section, including the popular lounge chairs in the sun-deck area and the ubiquitous “peel-up” benches, but a lawn invites us to stop and relax in an entirely different way. People will bring a book, a beach towel, a picnic; they’ll come to the High Line for an afternoon of rest and sun, not just a lovely walk. The “slow park” may get even slower.
3. Just as section one gave us a whole new way to experience Manhattan — from a unique perch of 30 feet above street level — so will the second section open up still-new vistas. One example: we’ll get an expansive view of 23rd Street, a boulevard that’s steeped in history. In the late 19th century it was the center of New York’s theatre district. It’s still home to the storied Chelsea Hotel where Mark Twain lived when it was the tallest building in New York City. Longer ago, when the Hudson River ran up what’s now 10th Avenue (under modern the High Line park) 23rd Street was part of a grand estate of fields and apple orchards that belonged to Clement Clarke Moore, author of A Visit From St. Nicholas.
Section one is steeped in its own history: the original Gansevoort farmer’s market, the birth of the technology of refrigeration, the old piers that supported what was at one point the largest port in the country. Section two offers a whole new chapter of New York history, with a wonderful diversity of manufacturing that includes everything from books and elevators to the foil that keeps cigarettes fresh in their packages.
4. The High Line will no longer be part park, part construction project, which means I’ll have to change the tagline of my blog. Even more, all that anticipation — the endless months of drumroll — will be over. All that’s left will be a simple walk in the park.
But not for me. I’m getting ready for section 3….