4.25.2015

On the Western Frontier: A Walk to the Whitney Museum of American Art and the High Line

This walk encompasses the new Whitney Museum of American Art and the High Line. The museum sits at the south end of the High Line in the Meatpacking District on the western side of Manhattan, affording views of the Hudson River. Just to the north, the Chelsea Gallery District straddles the High Line, so the elevated park affords convenient access to tangential art strolls. 



The north end of the tracks, self-seeding and intentionally bereft of plant cultivation, winds west to the river and then over to the vast urban redevelopment project known as Hudson Yards and to the Javits Convention Center. At some point in the decade (or next), the construction projects will conclude, and it will be possible to walk directly from the old rail line straight into Neiman Marcus without changing pace or elevation. That's New York for you. (Or, Dallas.)



On good weather weekends, the High Line is a crowd scene. It's not for loners seeking to meander along the railroad tracks. On a recent Sunday, many came to look at the new Whitney Museum of American Art, a significant development in the modern cultural history of New York City. The Whitney is famous for its collection of the works of Edward Hopper, who I wager will never be lonesome again.  


The new Whitney, long housed in Marcel Breuer's modern masterpiece on Madison Avenue, opens May 1. Designed by Renzo Piano, the building evokes nautical and industrial themes while blending climate-conscious elements in its high technology. I've only seen the outside, but the public plaza at its entrance (2nd image from top) seems friendly and open, like a place of embarkation. From the vantage point of the High Line, the museum resembles a factory, except for a couple of prominent zigzag touches in pink. The pink saves the day.      


Among some of us old codgers, brought up on TV Westerns, walking old railroad tracks conjures up thoughts about the Wild West. The classic western genre begins with a wild uncivilized frontier, overcome with vengeful struggles among outlaws and indigenous peoples. The end of the drama is usually marked by the arrival of the locomotive, bringing schoolmarms, lawyers, and enterprising capitalists to tame the landscape and its inhabitants.  


The completion of the High Line and the opening of the Whitney Museum draw this chapter of Manhattan's west to a close. The West is won.


But, wait. Maybe not. Late last night, I think I heard the howl of a coyote somewhere off to the west.*   


Directions: Take the A,C,E to 14th Street and walk west to the corner of Gansevoort Street and Washington Street. Find the Whitney plaza and stairs up to the High Line. The elevated walk north is approximately 1.5 miles. Several eating establishments are nearby, including many within the vast Chelsea Market. In the hallways on the west side of the market, stop and check out the historic photos of the old rail line, including pictures of the cowboys who once road the rails to alert the public of arriving trains. Before the 1930s, the tracks were at street level, so naturally accidents happened.


Eventually the extension of the 7 subway line will provide convenient means to commute home, but for now, you will have to foot it to 34th Street Penn Station. Do try to walk the northern stretch of the High Line for uncommon views of the river and the city as well as the future city now in progress.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from April 19, 2015. Follow me on Instagram ttynes. And on @TeriTynes on Twitter. Also, there's a Facebook page for this website.

* This past week, the NYPD gave chase to a coyote spotted on the Upper West Side. At press time, the fast and furtive coyote was still on the run. Other coyotes have been active in the area.

Update: Also bison.




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