21 July 2012

Destinations - The High Line park (New York)

As I mentioned in my first post about the trip to New York, the trip was all about Keith.  I pretty much let him set the agenda once he knew where the heck we were going.

With one exception.

I'd heard about the High Line park, and knew it was something I wanted to see and figured Keith would, too.  We weren't disappointed.

What's the High Line?  It was an elevated rail freight line on Manhattan's West Side that was completed in 1934 in order to remove a busy and dangerous street level line.  But as trucking supplanted this type of rail freight traffic, and as Manhattan grew less industrial, the High Line was abandoned in 1980.

As trains ceased using the High Line, nature asserted itself on this man-made structure, and plants took over the right-of-way.  To telescope the story (which you can read in far more detail here) neighborhood residents initiated and the City then joined their efforts to successfully pursue reuse of the High Line as a park, instead of demolishing the structure as some advocated.  The first section of the High Line opened to the public in June 2009.

The result?  The High Line is now a big draw for residents and visitors alike.

What can you do?  Walk, sit, take in close-up views of the adjacent buildings, adjoining neighborhoods, and more distant vistas.  Eat.  (Among a number of vendors, Oakland's renowned Blue Bottle Coffee has a seasonal operation on the High Line.)  Take in the art.

The High Line is a popular place, so if it's a nice day going early is wise in order to avoid crowds.  Normal operation is daily from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., but you should check ahead of time to be sure.

The High Line website is rich with detail including images both of the contemporary High Line and its history.

Here are some more photos of the High Line.

Approaching the High Line, westbound on West 14th Street.  Note how the structure goes into the building on the left.  This was how it was built in the 1930s to directly serve businesses.

Looking south on the High Line and near the "end of the line".  The building under construction on the right will be the High Line park headquarters, and immediately to its right will be the new location of the Whitney Museum of American Art.  The High Line originally continued south of here, but the southernmost section was torn down in the 1960s.

Though it's hard to tell from this picture, a hip and trendy hotel (The Standard) straddles and towers over the High Line.  Believe me, this place has incredible views!

A river runs between. Hard to tell from this perspective, but the skyline in the distance (looking west) is that of Jersey City on the other side of the Hudson. 

Most of the High Line's food stands are found undercover under the building on the left.  Many sidings that lead from the main part of the High Line to adjacent buildings remain.  The High Line is a window into early and mid-20th century industry in an intensely urban setting.

Looking east, here is a snap of Keith against the backdrop of Gansevoort Street from the southern most point on the High Line. Note the 19th century brick buildings behind Keith.

Billboard advertising an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Empire State Building off in the distance.

Good advice from a billboard.

You might not expect it but you'll see plenty of the same plants on the High Line that you'd see here in a western garden.  But with a different skyline.

This is where the High Line ends now at West 34th Street at the West Side Rail Yards.  The goal of the High Line organization is to acquire the remaining structure that crosses the West Side Rail Yards as far as West 30th Street, and incorporate it into the High Line park.  In this picture what you are looking at is a remaining and abandoned spur to a business.  It is not part of the existing park or of the West Side Rail Yards.  Its overgrown state is how the entire High Line looked prior to its rebirth.  By the way, the High Line was not a "market solution".  It took a community and city government working together to revitalize a privately built structure that no longer served any purpose.  Many adjacent private property owners subsequently benefitted from the creation of the High Line park.

13 July 2012

Destinations - New York, June 2012

Two weeks ago my partner Keith and I headed east for four nights in New York.

The occasion for the trip was to celebrate Keith's 60th birthday.  Back in March, he'd read a review of the show "End of the Rainbow".  It had gotten rave reviews especially for the actress, Tracie Bennett, who played the role of Judy Garland trying to stage a comeback in London in 1968.  I said nothing, but took note of this, and proceeded to assemble the trip without his being aware of it.  (I jokingly told him were going to go to Klamath Falls, and by the time I told him where we really were going, he actually thought that Klamath Falls was our destination.)

New York in June won't win the award for being the most climate-friendly destination, but other than that the trip came off perfectly. (The good thing about going to New York in the summer is that it makes Chico's summer heat seem almost tolerable since it's seldom muggy here.)

I'll follow this post with three more posts about Staten Island, the High Line park, and our visit to Brooklyn, but here are a few items to fill out this post.

Running in Central Park

Our hotel was just six short blocks from Central Park so we ran or powerwalked everyday on the loop that runs in the middle of the park from north to south, up one side and down the other.  (We entered the park where the red arrow is at the bottom of the map at left.)

The distance was a little over six miles - slightly less than the full loop in Chico's lower Bidwell Park.  But tougher.

In part it was the heat and humidity, even fairly early in the morning, but it was more than that; the hills were substantial and frequent.  Know that if you go for a run in Central Park it is not flat at all.

We saw runners and cyclists galore.  On weekends cars are banned altogether from the streets within the park.  During the week we were told that they are allowed in the park until 10:00 a.m., but on Monday we saw only a few (mostly taxis) and on Tuesday virtually none except park service vehicles.

While I never saw a sign indicating it was a requirement, it seemed customary that most runners ran counter-clockwise on the loop.

A run in Central Park is a Big Treat.  And while this is the nation's biggest city, many of the runners know each other and shout out greetings just like anywhere else.

The park is huge, beautiful, with great views of the city coming into view whenever there is a break in the trees.  What's more, it's spotless.  New York banned smoking in its parks and it clearly is enforced in Central Park.  I saw exactly one cigarette butt in four days of running, and no defacement (graffiti).

What a treasure this park is, and I've barely scratched the surface as a runner.  I can't wait to come back to run in the spring or autumn when the weather is milder.

For more info about running in Central Park see this from the park's website.

The 9/11 Memorial

The site of our nation's worst modern tragedy is still in many ways a vast construction site, but the memorial itself is complete.  No pictures to show here, but please take a look at the 9/11 Memorial website for photos and information about visiting.

In the footprint of each of the twin towers is a fountain, where water flows down all four sides from ground level, to then flow out through a smaller square at the bottom of the fountain.  It is an effective and solemn tribute to those who lost their lives that awful day.  The names of the victims are inscribed on the railing that surrounds each of the fountains.

"End of the Rainbow"

This was the catalyst that sparked our trip, and it did not disappoint.  In fact, it was outstanding.  Tracie Bennett, the actress who played Judy Garland, couldn't have been better.  Astoundingly, this was her Broadway debut!  She is a British actress, and played the role in London where the show was first produced.
Judy Garland prints in lobby of the Park Central Hotel

Ben Brantley's New York Times review from 2 April 2012 summed up the show magnificently, and this line from it is perfect: "After watching Tracie Bennett's electrifying interpretation of Garland in the intense production that opened on Monday night at the Belasco Theater, you feel exhilirated and exhausted, equally ready to dance down the street and crawl under a rock".

The Belasco Theater was just the right venue for this show.  You could imagine you were in the Talk of the Town nightclub where Garland performed, as the Belasco Theater is quite intimate.  The show's website currently is selling tickets through early January 2013.  If you're headed to New York between now and then, don't miss it.  (And good news: if you can't go to New York, an article reports the show with Tracie Bennett will come to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 2013.)