When it opened in 1934, the High Line was ‘the life line of New York’, delivering dairy, meat and fresh produce into the heart of the city and removing traffic from the streets (particularly ‘Death Avenue’, as Tenth became known). However, when it ceased operations in 1980, it automatically became an ‘obstruction to the ancient fine art of real estate development’.
If it hadn’t been championed by a few visionaries, it would be part of the history that it embodies; instead, it now provides a rural experience in the middle of Manhattan, and a uniquely stress-free way of observing the non-stop event that is New York traffic.
Photographs of the line in its abandoned state have a surreal quality, showing grassy walkways between glass-and-steel skyscrapers, a glimpse of a post-urban future. Since then, thanks to careful cultivation, the same walkways have been transformed into a riot of colour and exotic flora, with healthy greenery spilling over their railings almost to the streets below.
Annik La Farge’s book documents each stretch of the High Line, with maps, photographs, historical details, local colour and indispensable tourist tips, such as which hotel windows provide the best opportunity to observe naked frolicking within, and where to catch the most flamboyant graffiti. It’s a wonderful guide to what has quickly become a popular institution.
ON THE HIGH LINE: Exploring New York’s most Original Urban Park by Annik La Farge, Thames and Hudson, £19.95