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Under the High Line: A Guide to Art, Food, Cars, and Theology

The south entrance of the High Line. Just to the left of this image is the site planned for the Whitney Museum's second home.
In its first year of operation, the High Line, the elevated rail line repurposed as a walking trail, has become a successful and popular attraction, opening up new vistas and ways of seeing the city. Visitors to the city now add the trail to their itineraries. Our new well-designed urban path on high - and most everyone mentions the great design, with its hint of the old tracks, novel seating areas, etc. - is even a practical means of strolling from the West Village and the Meatpacking District to Chelsea and vice versa. So, its popularity begs the question - as more people take to walking through the area via the High Line, what's happening around and below the High Line?

The entrance to the Standard Hotel
Like with the Bowery, a street and neighborhood with an old history born under an elevated rail line (long gone now), 10th Avenue finds itself in transition, but something like in reverse. Now, the High Line gives the occasion, at least during its operating hours, to bypass walking the avenue and nearby streets for the vaulted perspective on high. The area below will probably not descend into a wild burlesque landscape, like the old days of the Bowery under the el - though that could be really fun!, because pedestrians and fast trains are not quite the same thing. Plus, the pedestrians strolling above can exit the line via staircases and find places to escape below. Still, businesses planning a presence near the High Line would need to take into consideration the fact that their potential customers, with their heads in the clouds, may stroll on by without noticing them.

Looking south, with the High Line above and curving in the distance
Having walked the High Line many times, I decided one day last weekend to explore the world underneath. What I found was an eclectic assortment of art, contemporary architecture, food, cars (stacks of them near W. 20th. and more going through the carwash near W. 15th.), churches, and new luxury apartment buildings, and most poignantly, the closing acts of the once-vibrant wholesale and meatpacking businesses on the west side. Much significant development is planned for the future, including the Renzo Piano-designed second home for the Whitney Museum's expanding collection. While the northern sections of the High Line above W. 20th are not completed, it's clear that some real estate and retail development there will be geared toward this eventuality. 


View Under the High Line: Art, Food, Cars, and Theology in a larger map

The embedded map gives some clue as to the types of activity below. With the return of nice weather, stopping for a drink in the Standard Hotel's open air Biergarten immediately underneath the High Line gives a good sense of the creative potential for this sort of space. If you're walking on the High Line and you've wondered about the groovy bright yellow picnic tables below near W. 13th Street and Washington Street, those are the seats in front of the lobby of the Standard Hotel, the modern glass structure that straddles the trail.

The Standard Grill is also quite good, as are several restaurants near the High Line - Morimoto, Del Posto, Cookshop, and Moran's, among them. Several designers have shops near the High Line, including Diane Von Furstenberg Studio and Stella Mc Cartney. The interior world of the vast Chelsea Market between W. 15th and W. 16th Street is always worth visiting, or consider taking lunch or dinner at the gorgeous Morimoto, designed for the Iron Chef by Tadao Ando.

The Kitchen at 512 West 19th Street is not what it sounds like, but much better - one of the great interdisciplinary arts organizations in the city. The Kitchen, in turn, serves, as a lead-in to the Chelsea gallery district, with David Zwirner's gallery down the street. Across the street from Clement Clarke Moore Park at W. 21st St.on 10th Avenue, look for the Guardian Angel Church, a Romanesque Revival building from the 1930s, or go west and explore the General Theological Seminary.

The High Line takes a turn.
If exiting the south end of the High Line, keep walking south along Washington Street and explore the charming West Village. Leaving the north end near W. 20th, find your way to W. 20th, W. 21st, or W. 22nd Streets, also pretty and charming. Or, for fans of heavy infrastructure, just stay under the High Line and order a beer.

Note: Shifting the map into Google Street View can be unsettling, because the Google StreetView truck cruised through the area before the High Line was even open. Some of the places mentioned above don't exist in this virtual city. You are welcome to try it, but it will mess with your head.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from April 10, 2010.

Related posts:
Walking the Rails Above Death Avenue: High Noon for the High Line (June 9, 2009)
An Art Walk for a Chelsea Afternoon, and Places to Stay for the Night (September 17, 2009)





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