College started last week for me, and today I celebrated Labor Day by going to a park in the most improbable of places.
At first glance, this looks like an ordinary abandoned railroad. Rusted rails overgrown with various plants. But this is no ordinary railroad — otherwise, a lot of people would be an a whole lot of legal trouble.
Welcome to the High Line.
The High Line opened in 1934 as a freight line servicing various companies along the west side of Manhattan. The railroad is unique in that it was built in the middle of the block rather than over the avenues — this allowed the trains to run through the buildings they were servicing. However, traffic declined as trucks began to carry most of the freight, and the line closed for good in the 1980s.
Several years ago, a non-profit group called Friends of the High Line had an idea to turn the abandoned railroad into a park, and the rest is history. The High Line has been one of the more successful results of what are called “rails-to-trails” projects, where abandoned rail rights-of-way (an area that can be used only by a railroad) are turned into paths for people to walk or bike.
The park runs from 30th St to Gansevoort St in the West Village, close to 10th Avenue. There is a section of the line that is still owned by CSX, from 30th St to 34th St into the West Side Yards, but there are apparently negotiations to turn that final segment into part of the park as well. In many places the existing rails were built into the path, a constant reminder of what once was.