On Monday, Clif and I returned home from our weekend trip to New York City, where we had visited with our daughter Dee. Over the weekend, the weather was perfect—sunny and warm—and we did plenty of walking. Good thing, because we did plenty of eating, too. What a great city! Of all the cities I’ve visited, New York is my favorite. (All right, maybe it ties with Paris for first place.) The vitality and the tremendous diversity never fail to impress me, and although I’m a “country girl,” I really do love New York City.
I have decided to write about the New York trip in two parts, so that I could post plenty of pictures. The first part is what you might call a digression and really isn’t about food at all. But since this is a blog, I feel as though I have the right to digress now and then.
On Saturday, Clif, Dee, and I walked the High Line, which I’ve wanted to do for some time now. According to their website, “The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district.” However, in 1980, trains stopped being used on the High Line, and in 1999, when the High Line was slated to be demolished, a group formed to save the High Line and to turn it into a public park. That group—the Friends of the High Line—works in partnership with New York City.
The High Line is about a mile-and-a-half long, and to say that it gives pedestrians a bird’s eye view of the city doesn’t begin to capture the appeal of this unique use of an existing space that allows city dwellers a chance to walk and linger outside. The following is from the FAQ section of the High Line’s website, and it beautifully sums up the value of the High Line: “The High Line is a monument to the industrial history of New York’s West Side. It offers an opportunity to create an innovative new public space, raised above the city streets, with views of the Hudson River and the city skyline. It also offers a hopeful model for industrial reuse for other cities around the world.”(The emphasis is mine.)
In the United States, we place a high premium on wilderness, and it is entirely appropriate to work hard at preserving large tracts of land for wild plants and animals. What we are not so good at is creating public places—parks—where everyone can enjoy the sun and the sky and trees and flowers and, yes, even the grass. In some environmental circles, the notion of a park is even looked down on, and in my opinion this is a very misguided attitude. In the not too distant future, our planet will have 9 billion people on it, and millions of these people will be living in small apartments in big cities. These people will need a place where they can get outside and feel the wind on their faces, where they can walk or have a picnic or just sit in the sun. In a city, horizontal space at ground level is at a premium, but when you go up, there are many more possibilities, and the High Line illustrates how such a space can be well loved and well used.
On the day we went, the High Line was packed. There were tourists aplenty—like me and Clif—snapping away with their little cameras. And why not? How often, surrounded by flowers and trees and grass, do you get to walk up high among the buildings? My guess is, not very often. But along with the tourists there were also lots of local folks—some having picnics in the many spots set out with benches and some pushing enormous baby carriages. As Clif observed, “They didn’t bring those carriages on the plane.” No, they didn’t. There were also plenty of families out with small, running children who could sprint safely, with high walls to keep them safe and no traffic to worry about.
Again, there was that wonderful diversity—young, old, American, foreign, white, black, male, female.
So if you ever find yourself in New York on a nice sunny day, talk a walk on the High Line. We’re certainly glad that we did.