AUTHOR Zoe Schlanger
PHOTOGRAPHER Ayasha Guerin
Thirty feet above the Chelsea sidewalk, an old raised-train platform weaves between apartment buildings and parking lots. From the street, the High Line looks like an abandoned industrial relic, a bit of structural debris fallen from functionality, and forgotten. And it was, until this past June when a grassroots campaign of New Yorkers, having successfully lobbied the City, reclaimed the blighted platform and opened High Line Park.
The entrances to the platform—unassuming, nearly hidden utilitarian staircases—lend themselves to the almost Narnia-like mystique of the park. Indeed, once you’ve climbed four drab stories, you emerge onto an alternate level of the city. Amid industrial megaliths—backs of billboards, sides of high-rises—the High Line is a wonderland of urban eco-design. The train tracks were left on the platform, obscured by the tall grasses and flowers growing rampant between them. The other-worldly wildness is coupled with careful design details, from chairs that can turn into tables and an area of stadium seating around a movie-screen sized window where one can watch the city flow by, hovering directly above a busy intersection, a foreign and mesmerizing perspective. All, mind you, furbished from recycled composite materials.
High Line Park is quite the testament to creative, sustainable urban design: a looming stretch of weathered steel-turned-eco-Narnia. Find a staircase, and take a trip up to the thin, sleek strip of calm running above the hustle and sweat of the city. It’s a seriously surreal experience, made only more so when you look around and realize you’re strolling past people’s fourth-story windows.