Joel Sternfeld's photography in 2000 - nine years before a park

HIGH LINE PARK  .......  I heard of this park long before I ever found it. But, truth be told, the first time I heard about it was in February. That is too cold to explore anything outside in New York. It was a bitter cold February.

It appears that traffic has been a problem in New York City for much of its history. In 1847, the City of New York authorized railroad tracks at street level in the west side of Manhattan. Even then, safety was a concern and "West Side Cowboys" on actual horseback rode in front of the trains to help prevent accidents. It didn't work well. There were so many accidents that the area around Tenth Avenue was called "Death Avenue".

It took a lot of years, a lot of accidents, and a whole lot of money to fix the problem. In 1929, an elevated highway project began that would run for thirteen miles. Competed in 1934, it ran from Spring Street in the south up to 34th Street. It releaved a lot of traffic on the street while connecting factories and wearhouses in need of transporting milk, meat, produce and other goods both raw and manufactured.
The growth of instate highways in the 1950s decreased usage on the line and part of it was demolished in the 1960s. The last train to actually run on its lines was in 1980. After that, the abandoned railway let nature take its course. Stubborn wild grasses, shurbs and even trees took root. While some people planned for its complete demolition, others sought to turn it in to an elevated open space similar to a project in Paris. Sanity won this time.
The park, opened in 2009, has helped in the Renaissance of the neighboring area. Its walkways, benches and gardens lure millions to the area every year. I, for one, was very pleased to be one of those visitors on a much sunnier and warmer day than in February.

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Copyright 2015 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.