“Summer” on the Hudson Valley with Branches

July 20, 2010 at 2:57 am (Uncategorized)

My family and I just returned from five days in New York City. We saw shows, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, The Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall and ate. One of the highlights of the trip by far was New York’s High Line, an elevated public park that when finished will run from The Meatpacking District to 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. My husband and I had the opportunity to tour Section One of the Highline (Gansevoort Street to 20th Street) , which opened to the public last year.

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.  Connecting directly to factories and warehouses, the High Line allowed trains carrying milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods to roll right inside buildings without causing street-level traffic. In 1980, the last train ran on the High Line pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys.

Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. The group successfully worked with the mayoral administration of Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council to reverse a City policy favoring demolition to one ensuring the High Line’s preservation through the federal Railbanking program. Last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented the Doris C. Freedman Award to Friends of the High Line for its dedication to preserving an essential piece of New York’s industrial history and for transforming the High Line into an innovative public space [The High Line Blog].

“Rather than destroying this valuable piece of our history, we have recycled it into an innovative and exciting park that will provide more outdoor space for our citizens and create jobs and economic benefits for our City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Ten years ago, detractors thought the High Line was an eyesore. Thankfully, there were a handful of people who looked at the High Line and saw also an extraordinary gift to our city’s future.”

My family and I had the opportunity to take a walking tour the High Line and learn about its unique design elements with  Peter Mullan, Friends of the High Line’s Vice President of Planning & Design. 

One of the many features that make the High Line so exceptional and rich, in addition to the horticulture and the spectactular views, is the presentation of contemporary art in, on and near the park. Currently on display in the park are Stephen Vitiello’s, A Bell for Every Minute, a multi-channel sound installation, Richard Galpin’s Viewing Station, which gives visitors an altered, abstracted view from the High Line, Spencer Finch’s A River that Flows Both Ways, and my favorite, Valerie Hegarty’s Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches. For the High Line, Hegarty created a work that imagines a nineteenth century Hudson River School landscape painting that has been left outdoors, exposed to the elements. Hegarty’s painting is based on Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Autumn on the Hudson River of 1860, a bucolic landscape that shows none of the affects of the Industrial Revolution. Hegarty’s canvas is tattered and frayed, and the partially exposed stretcher bars appear to be morphing into tree branches, as if reverting back to their natural state.

Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches

 Perhaps the soul that resonates from the High Line comes from the spirit of the  New Yorkers  who recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a public place unlike any other in the world. Special thanks to the three Friends of the High Line volunteers, including Mr. Mullan, for sharing with my family a piece of New York history 30 feet above the ground.

In many places, the High Line's railroad tracks are returned to their original locations, integrated into the planting beds.

Richard Galpin, Viewing Station

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