Last week I spent some time in NYC, almost all of it on the West side, upper, middle and lower. As usual, I took the subway, and along the way I noted two ends of the lifecycle of transportation: the birth of a new station on the 7 line, and the rebirth as a park of a section of an old elevated freight line.
The 7 line extension
The 7 train connects Times Square and Flushing via 42nd street, Grand Central Station, Queensboro Plaza, Jackson Heights, and Shea Stadium, to name just a few of the stations and neighborhoods. But anybody who’s ever had the misfortune to attend a convention at the Javits Center can tell you where the 7 does not go. But this will change. Sometime in the next ten years or so, the 7 train will have a new Western terminus at 34th street and 11th avenue. You can see a bit of the area in question here, via google maps:
- It *might* eventually get extended to 23rd street and 11th avenue, further revitalizing Chelsea. More on Chelsea in a bit.
- A planned station at 41st street and 10th avenue (“Hell’s Kitchen”) has been canceled or postponed. I for one would be totally excited to have a station called “Hell’s Kitchen” but it appears that the plan would label it “10th Avenue.”
The high line
Way out at the other end of the transit lifecycle is the High Line, a new park created from the skeleton of a long-abandoned 1930’s elevated freight rail line near 10th avenue. The first section of the High Line, which opened on June 9, runs from Gansevoort street in the appetizingly-named meatpacking district up to 20th street. Eventually the park will run all the way to 30th street, then West around the rail yards, ending up pretty close to the Javtis Center and the new 7 line terminus. You can see the tracks more clearly in Google’s map view, and the satellite view doesn’t yet show the High Line’s current state.
I’m very much in favor of walkable urban space, urban green space and imaginative recycling or urban relics, but I found the High Line a little unfinished. Actually, it is unfinished, not just because not all the old track has been opened as a park, but also because as a park, it has yet to grow and develop. The plantings are young, the wooden parts have yet to weather, and yes, the taggers haven’t made their mark yet.
The High Line has some great beats making imaginative use of the materials at hand, such as the chaise lounges on wheels set into the old tracks and a sunken ampetheater that ends in glass windows looking up 10th avenue. It also passes under or through some buildings along the way, notably the Standard Hotel, which straddles it between Little West 12th and 13th streets. The vistas are impresive and there’s a good amount of green for the space available, which is maybe 20 feet wide in most parts. There’s an elevator at 16th street (also the location of the only restrooms), so the line is pretty acessible.
What’s missing for me – and I hope this is just temporary – is shelter. None of the plants are tall enough for shade yet, and there seems hardly anything to break the wind that comes off the river and down the avenues. I wonder what the park will be like in the winer. But these are small nits, and I’m very happy to see such an interesting new space come up. And of course, some of the gritty side is still visible from the line, if not at yet on it.