The High Line park in NYC, a skyline promenade, part 2

At the end of Part 1 of my post about visiting the High Line in New York City last weekend, we’d just entered Chelsea Market Passage. After the dimness of the passageway, you exit into bright sunlight on the aptly named Sun Deck.

Wooden lounge chairs resembling stacked pallets are surely the most popular seats on the High Line.

If someone stands up, a passerby darts over to snag a seat.

Some of the chairs have wheels that roll along rails, allowing you to cozy up to your neighbor.

A water feature across the path puddles water on the paving edge. A bog garden makes use of the overflow.

Sparrows were bathing here when we passed by.

Nice views of the Hudson River can be glimpsed from benches and lounge chairs on the Sun Deck.

Bistro tables offer additional places to relax and enjoy the view.

While peak fall color was still a week or two away, we saw some reds and yellows on the High Line, in addition to the golden grasses.

‘Sinonome’ toad lily was in full bloom…

…as were asters and persicaria.

In the early 1900s, grand ocean liners docked at Pier 54. Today it’s used for concerts and other public events.

Just south of 13th Street you pass under the Standard Hotel.

Once again, a dim passageway segues into an open, brilliantly lit plaza and the Washington Grasslands. Earlier in the year, when the grasses are still small, the Grasslands look like this — very different, with rail lines visible amid the plants.

Farther along, you can see rail lines even amid the lush growth of late season.

I love how the plants seem to have sprung up on their own in the rail bed — all a carefully planned illusion.

Moving on, with mellow fall color showing on either side of the path.

Turning around for a look at the Standard, I remembered reading that occasionally hotel guests give peepshow views to park-strollers below. Our view was entirely G-rated, however.

At the southern end of the High Line, you enter the Gansevoort Woodland.

Gleaming, satin trunks of gray birches sprout amid the train tracks.

A metal sculpture rises from the tracks as well.

Now we’d reached the end of the High Line, so we got off and took the subway to the 9/11 Memorial. Afterward, we made our way back to Gansevoort Street and scored an outdoor table at Bubby’s, a cafe my friend Rebecca Sweet had recommended and which is overlooked by the High Line. We enjoyed a delicious early dinner and stayed to people-watch for a while before walking back up the High Line stairs.

The light was low in the west, illuminating the grasses and fading perennials with a golden glow.

I noticed a perfect color echo between the Hudson River and these blue shutters.

Plank paving with “colonizing” Mexican feathergrass

Back at the Tenth Avenue Amphitheater, we saw that the traffic-watching crowd had grown. Everyone wanted to pose for a photo in front of the windows overlooking the street.

These two women “sat” against the window, which created an illusion of sitting in midair, and which must have provided an interesting rear view for pedestrians below.

We stood on the path above, leaning against the railing, and watched two artists drawing the same architectural scene.

The people-watching here was excellent, not only on the bleachers below but on the main path as people passed us. While my daughter watched the artists with rapt attention, I turned around and watched the throngs of people passing by. Young and old, fashionable and casual, tourists and locals, every nationality you might think of — as they passed I looked each person in the face, and they looked back. It was so different from the streets below, where everyone puts on blank stares as they rush by. It was a High Line connection.

Moving on, I admired this narrow planting bed with heuchera and sedge mulched with charcoal gravel.

A pretty combo

Surrounding buildings were bathed in afternoon light.

The Lawn was in shadow though.

A drummer had set up on one of the benches, and his rhythms made for a good walking beat, if you were in a hurry. We sat down to listen for a while.

By this time the streets were in shadow, with only the tops of buildings still glowing.

It was getting late, after a full day on the High Line and surrounding areas.

As the sun dipped toward the river we made our way along the rail path on the northern end.

This time we noticed not just peel-up benches but peel-up tables too.

Children were playing in the Pershing Square Beams, where the underlying steel beams of the High Line have been exposed and coated in silicone for safety. Here, children are allowed to do all the things they want to do in other parts of the park but can’t, like climb and balance and jump and explore grassy planting beds up close.

An underground passage leads to a “gopher hole,” where kids can pop up to get a prairie dog’s view.

The northern end of the High Line is a curving arc with views open to the Hudson River and across a rail yard where commuter trains are stored between rush hours.

I neglected to take a picture of the rail yard, which is too bad because that industrial view will be long gone by the time I return to New York. The planned Hudson Yards redevelopment project will build a floating foundation over the trains and stack skyscrapers, parks, and a public plaza atop it. It’s a massive private development project that will transform the skyline, and the High Line will be right there alongside it.

For now, though, it’s a serene, less crowded part of the park. The gardens here are meant to look even more like the self-seeded wildscape amid the rails that people worked so hard to save.

What a loss had they not. And what a triumph of imaginative reuse the High Line turned out to be.

Up next: My visit to Wave Hill, a public estate garden in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades. For a look back at Part 1 of my High Line visit, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

24 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I like everything about it. Love the pop up hole. Wish I could fit in it.

  2. Melody McMahon says:

    Seeing your posts on The High Line makes me wish I’d taken the time to see it when I’ve been to NYC. Next time for sure! And I think you went at just the right time, not too cold to walk around and enjoy being up above the streets! So glad you got to spend the time with your daughter!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I was crossing my fingers there wouldn’t be an early frost before I got there, Melody. The timing worked out well since Oudolf’s designs are so heavy on fall-blooming grasses. —Pam

  3. Lori says:

    Ahhhh, I’ve been waiting for your High Line post, and there were two! Awesome. So many pictures, and it brings me back! The High Line is one of my favorite places, and I’ve been dying to go back to New York so I can see the new section. I’d love to see it in the fall, too. It’s so cool to see how everything’s grown in the parts of the park that were open last year. I really need to make a note to dig up the pictures I took and make a Thowback Thursday post sometime. Spring and fall look very different! One of my favorite things about the plantings was how they transitioned into different areas that felt very different. That birch woodland was one of my favorite spots.

  4. Mark and Gaz says:

    Brings back so many memories! Such a succesful project this one is, and a lovely place to relax and promenade.

  5. TexasDeb says:

    What a triumph of imagination and reuse over obsolescence and neglect. And as usual you’ve taken the time to thoroughly chronicle various features while simultaneously giving us a sense of the place as a whole in a way that invites rather than inundates. Thank you (and your daughter who is obviously a trooper to wait while Mom takes photos/notes)!

  6. Oh, Pam – I’ve SO enjoyed reading about the High Line from your perspective. And I’ve been dying to see the garden in its fall glory, versus the summer splash that I saw earlier this year. What a garden it is – truly beautiful in all seasons. And I never saw the kids section – that must be in the newly opened part? How fun!!! And I’m thrilled to see you had dinner at Bubbys! I hope you liked it as much as we did. Did you try one of their sodas? Oh how I love this garden. Thank you for taking me back to one of my favorite places on earth. XO

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Rebecca, your posts about NYC and the High Line this summer set my expectations high, yet the garden exceeded them. It’s an incredible place. Yes, the kids’ playspace is in the newest section that opened in September. Bubby’s was wonderful! We got a cafe table on the sidewalk, allowing us to keep people watching and enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon as we dove into their delicious food. I’m so glad you recommended it to me. —Pam

  7. I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed both of your posts on the High Line. You not only capture it, you add to the experience with all those little details we might not know otherwise. Thank you!

  8. Kris P says:

    This is the most comprehensive view of the High Line I’ve seen yet, Pam. You and your daughter took my favorite kind of vacation trip. Thanks for sharing it! I look forward to the next chapters.

  9. Thank you, Pam! Just what I needed — an authentic tour and viewpoint… and one that makes me ache even more to visit. Lucky dog.

  10. David says:

    Thanks for sharing the High Line. Great series of photos! One of the designers behind the garden is the Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. He is really embracing the prairie style. I just did a post of his work in the Netherlands, in a similar urban park in Rotterdam.

    Like your photos show, his work if full of great combination ideas.

  11. rickii says:

    You’ve done it again: brought to life an iconic garden that I hope to visit one day. Until then, I feel sated by your extensive and insightful report. Thanks!

  12. Les says:

    I am glad you finally got to go, and that you shared your trip. My son and I went years ago, just as phase II was about to open. It remains one of my favorite trips.