The High Line once again has the “disappearing railroad blues,” having closed to visitors earlier this morning because a sheet of ice descended on New York City in the wake of last week’s snow storm.
The High Line is our Slow Park. For visitors, it exerts an almost gravitational force, slowing their pace and opening up vistas for observation and enjoyment. You often see people walking hand-in-hand, an old-fashioned activity that’s difficult in the narrow, crowded, fast-moving streets below.
It’s also the Slow Park in another sense: it takes a long time to clear it of snow and ice. Friends of the High Line designed and built the park with a commitment to ideas about sustainability and greenness, and that sensibility permeates virtually every aspect of the place, from the gardens to the food program. It also means they use no chemicals to speed the process of snow removal. Everything is cleared the old-fashioned way, by hand or just by time: the number of hours it takes for the air to warm and the ice to melt.
The streets of New York City are an appalling mess today, and it’s not just the snow and the ice: it’s the dismal chemical stew that results from endless amounts of de-icing products. Why are we so addicted to these awful chemicals and the noisy, fume-spewing machines that building staffs use in concert with them, to rapidly clear the snow and ice? Because we are in a hurry to have our streets back, to move quickly again, without impediment. When I was a kid, back in the olden days, we shoveled everything — snow, ice and slush — by hand, through the entire cycle of a snowstorm. When we were done we tossed a bit of old-fashioned rock salt onto the sidewalk and resolved to walk slowly for a few days, until things returned to normal. Today, in our rapacious quest to make up for lost time and move ever faster, we consign our city streets — and, down the line, our rivers and harbor — to a slurry of black, poisonous goo.
So when the High Line reopens — maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day — take a slow walk in a miraculous place, and tip your hat (if it’s not too cold) to the army of gardeners, staff, and volunteers who, along with Father Time, will get the park open just as soon as possible.