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Around 7.5 million people visited the High Line

Around 7.5 million people visited the High Line Park in 2015. (Credit: Charles Eckert)

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Secrets of the High Line, the NYC public park 30 feet above Manhattan's streets

820 Washington Street New York NY 10014

The High Line attracted 7.5 million people in 2015. The park, a mile-and-a-half long and 30 feet above the ground, opened in three stages, beginning in June 2009 and most recently in September 2014.

The original High Line was built as an elevated freight line in the early 1900s to prevent trains from hitting pedestrians. Tenth Avenue had previously been named Death Avenue because of how many people were killed by the freight trains. It officially opened in 1934, and trains ran along the line through factories and warehouses.

The last train ran in 1980, at a time when the growth of the trucking industry made the freight trains unnecessary. After years of being abandoned, the High Line gained the interest of the community. Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999 with the goal of reusing the High Line as a public space. Construction began in 2006.

The park today is truly one-of-a-kind, inspiring a number of projects around the world. Here are some secrets of the unique space.

While designing the High Line, the designers found

Credit: Diana Colapietro

Perfect views

While designing the High Line, the designers found some key views they knew they wanted to highlight, explained Isabel Castilla of James Corner Field Operations, one of the park's primary design companies.

One view you may not expect can be found while standing near the benches at the top of the 10th Avenue amphitheater, Castilla said. If you turn to look south, you will see the Statue of Liberty perfectly framed between the buildings.

Another can be found while standing on the elevated lawn on 23rd Street. You will get a clear view of the entire street from river to river. It's a rare glimpse of both the East River and the Hudson River in the same spot, Castilla said.

Not exactly. But it was submitted as an

Credit: Friends of the High Line

The High Line could have been a lap pool?

Not exactly. But it was submitted as an idea in an Ideas Competition in 2003, organized by Friends of the High Line.

The competition brought in 720 entries from more than 30 countries. There was no requirement that the ideas had to be realistic, and the winners definitely weren't. A 7,920-foot-long swimming pool was among the winning submissions, according to a New York Times article about the competition. Other submissions included making the rail line into a roller coaster, a farm and a "Black Market Crawler," designed as a moving structure with shops and other buildings.

All of the ideas were on display at Grand Central, and, according to the article, the competition marked a turning point in public support for reusing the High Line.

Before Friends of the High Line began work

Credit: Luhring Augustine, New York / Joel Sternfeld

A Christmas tree on the tracks

Before Friends of the High Line began work to make it what it is today, the High Line was a secret spot for some in the neighborhood. Many didn't know what it was and, if they did, the only way to see it was to trespass.

According to "The High Line" (Phaidon, 2015), a book by the High Line designers, James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, before the design team could go up to the High Line, everyone had to sign safety waivers to ensure they wouldn't sue the rail company if they were hurt by all the debris.

In addition to the debris, they found things left behind by trespassers, including broken glass, castaway furniture, a bucket of used spray paint cans, a garden and a small tree decorated with lights for Christmas. Pictures of the tree and other discoveries were published in "The High Line."

Friends of the High Line allowed the producers

Credit: "NY Export: Opus Jazz”

A ballet was filmed on the original High Line

Friends of the High Line allowed the producers of "NY Export: Opus Jazz" (2010) to film the fourth movement of the work, "Passage of Two," on the High Line above 30th Street before construction on that area began.

The film is an adaptation of Jerome Robbins' ballet of the same name. Sean Suozzi, one of the film's producers, said the mystery of the High Line at the time is what made them want to film there, but it wasn't an easy task. The equipment they used was selected based on what the crew could carry up the stairwell to the High Line. They even left all the equipment up on the tracks overnight, with production assistants taking shifts watching it.

Each day, the team did about 30 takes of the movement, which was done in a single shot. The producers thought they wouldn't get the background they had hoped for because both days they filmed were overcast, but on the very last take, the clouds cleared and the sunset was perfectly in the background, Suozzi said.

An estimated two to three marriage proposals per

Credit: Friends of the High Line

A place to pop the question ... or drop the ring

An estimated two to three marriage proposals per weekend are witnessed by Friends of the High Line rangers between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Friends of the High Line said the most popular places for proposals are locations along the park where you can see the sunset or the skyline.

But the location isn't without its risks. High Line Park Services staffers have been known to retrieve engagement rings that fell through the cracks of the concrete planks after nervous proposers dropped them. Tim Ries, director of Park Services of Friends of the High Line, said the team has used multiple retrieval devices, including one made from piano wire, which is seen being used in the photo above.

One of the last things to get cut

Credit: "The High Line" by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Phaidon, 2015)

A pool was in the original design

One of the last things to get cut from the design was a pool above 14th Street. It was going to be a glass bottom pool over 14th Street, explained Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line in a presentation about the park at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2010. Ultimately it got cut because of costs.

A rendering of a pool design, seen above, is published in "The High Line" (Phaidon, 2015).

The High Line is seen at the end

Credit: GiraldiMedia via YouTube

'Love is a Battlefield' under the High Line

The High Line is seen at the end of Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" music video. The 1983 video was filmed a few years after the last trains ran on the tracks in 1980. The first glimpse of the High Line is at 4:44.

This wasn't the first time the rail line was seen on film, though. It also appears for a few seconds in the opening scene of Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (1979). Watch: 22 to: 25, as Allen speaks the first line "Chapter One. He adored New York City," to see a black and white shot of the High Line.

The planting beds that are above buildings along

Credit: Diana Colapietro

Some of the planting beds are heated

The planting beds that are above buildings along the High Line are heated underneath to help the plants weather cold winter temperatures, said Cub Barrett, director of communications of Friends of the High Line.

Continuous freezing and thawing is not good for the plants' roots, he explained. Normally, the ground provides natural warmth to protect the roots, but since the High Line is 30 feet above the ground and sometimes sits on other structures, some plants need more protection from fluctuations in temperature.

The path of the High Line almost replicates

Credit: OASIS NYC

The High Line runs along Manhattan's old shoreline

The path of the High Line almost replicates the shoreline of Manhattan in the early 1600s. The map above, found on OASIS NYC, an interactive map website managed by the Center of Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, is based on research from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Manhattan Project.

As the shoreline expanded, everything west of 10th Avenue became landfill, which means many building projects adjacent to the High Line must dewater the site during construction, Friends of the High Line said.

As a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton wrote a

Credit: "The High Line" by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Phaidon, 2015)

Hillary Clinton was an early supporter of reusing the High Line

As a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to the Speaker of the New York City Council expressing her support of the reuse of the High Line in 2001 (left).

"The High Line's value to the future of Chelsea and the surrounding neighborhoods is important," she wrote. "The interesting proposal put forth by Friends of the High Line seems to have merit. I urge you to look at it closely and study its feasibility." An image of the letter appears in the "The High Line" (Phaidon, 2015).

At the same time, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argued for demolition of the High Line, but his successor, Michael Bloomberg, supported the reuse when he was elected in 2002.

Celebrities, including actors Edward Norton and Kevin Bacon and designer Diane von Furstenberg, were also early public supporters. They appeared in a video about the High Line in 2006.

The square footage of the High Line's planting

Credit: Diana Colapietro

Two NFL football fields in the sky

The square footage of the High Line's planting beds is nearly 124,000 square feet, which is more than the square footage of two NFL football fields (one NFL football field is about 57,600 square feet), Ries said.

There are more than 100,000 plants of more than 600 varieties growing in those beds throughout the year. The plants include perennials, grasses, vines, bulbs, trees and shrubs. Many of them are the same species that self-seeded on the High Line before construction began, according to Friends of the High Line. Seeds had fallen off of trains or were carried over by birds or the wind, which is how plants and trees began to grow on the tracks.

Because of the High Line's green standards and

Credit: Friends of the High Line

Ice can't be removed

Because of the High Line's green standards and the delicate pathways, the Friends of the High Line team can't use chemical ice-melting techniques, explained Barrett. Traditional ice scrapers would also damage the surface, he said, which means the staff must wait for the sun to melt ice. During the winter, some areas of the High Line must be blocked off until the ice melts naturally.

To remove snow, the Friends of the High Line staff uses a combination of power brooms, snow throwers and hand shoveling. The blizzard in January 2016 dumped more than two feet of snow on the entire park, which was the most the High Line had received since its opening in June 2009.

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