The High Line: The Greatest Thing I Wish I’d Never Heard Of

Before the heavens opened and deluged New York morning, I had a chance to stroll the section of the High Line elevated parkway that opened yesterday. The former rail line has become the poster child for successful urban-space reclamation, spawning a frenzy of celeb endorsements, media affection, and commercial partnerships. This morning, on its first official full day, there was almost nobody there at 7:30am except various solitary, wandering photobloggers. I assume they were bloggers rather than just regular photographers, since who but someone desperate to get pics online quick would bother to shoot on a dim, washed-out overcast morning?

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Myself included. However you feel about it, the Standard Hotel is an impressive, looming presence. It really does loom, and despite a few verandas and such, you also feel like it’s definitely looking down its nose at you. Of course, then you get to impishly walk between its “legs,” though the resulting upskirt is less than erotic. Would be a great place to stay when visiting the city though.

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Long as you don’t mind all the strategic billboards popping up, that is. Sure, the High Line is pretty sanitized (so far), but that’s no surprise. In fact, the whole experience is really no surprise at this point. Like many New Yorkers, I’ve been avidly following the progress and twists and turns of the High Line’s gestation and birth, and I’m very pleased it happened. And I don’t really have regrets that it’s not more gritty or run-down or otherwise somehow more legit and cool. The only letdown, really, is that it rises to and exactly fulfills all the expectations presented by the years-long media blitz it inspired. I’ll be back, and it will make for a pleasant stroll now and again — but this morning, despite the High Line’s freshness and newness, it just felt like a nice birthday present that been sitting on my kitchen table, unwrapped but unopened, since 1999.

What cheered me up was exiting the stairs at 19th Street and running into a Latina mother and daughter gaping at the stairway and watching the sparse pedestrians up there. They were puzzled by my sudden appearance at street level, and as I walked off, they wondered aloud what was going on up there, what I and those people were doing, and why. As I crossed the street, I looked back and saw them tentatively creeping up the stairs, unsure if they were going someplace they shouldn’t, but drawn on by curiosity. They hadn’t been reading about the High Line for years, and they would be intrigued and fascinated by what they found up there. So even if I was a little jaded about it, I can still get a vicarious charge out of the High Line by knowing it’s going to be a perennial favorite of accidental New York discoveries.

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