About a decade ago, Damon Hoydysh, founder of Highline Studios, climbed up onto the old, pre-gentrified High Line and shot a whole bunch of film--of the weedy wilderness and graffiti tunnels before they were turned into artisanal food courts and tourist outlooks.
He shares it here for a first exclusive look (be sure to watch on full screen):
I asked Damon a few questions:
Q: How did you get up to the High Line to take this footage?
A: I hopped the fence at the LIRR railroad yard at the north end of the High Line. Once you cleared the fence, it was just steps to the beginnings of the High Line. It was really hot that day, and when I got to the end, I had to get down through a functioning meat processing facility on 14th street. It was just one of those moments, older guys in white butcher’s coats looking at me funny as I briskly exited via their huge, full-floor meat locker with my camera over my shoulder.
Q: What attracted you to the old High Line?
A: I was always obsessed with it. I just loved the actual structure, the rusted steel--like the biggest Richard Serra piece you've ever seen. When I first started my company, we were located on 23rd Street right above it, and that’s where the name Highline Studios came from. I've always been drawn to anything transportation-related, and even though the railway was abandoned, it felt like a lifeline that ran right through the heart of the neighborhood.
I loved it over there because the streets were empty and still felt industrial--beautiful old factories with smoke-stacks, rail yards, empty warehouses--just awesome, raw NYC. No condos. It was one of the the last vestiges of the old, gritty NYC that I had known as a kid. When I first got up on the High Line, I realized that it encapsulated all that I loved about the area, perfectly preserved, with gorgeous graffiti galleries everywhere. It was also striking how the vegetation had just naturally taken over and blended so perfectly with all the man-made, discarded elements, it was beautiful.
Q: Do you ever go up to the new High Line? How do you think it compares to the old?
A: I think they did a beautiful job for a modern park, but at the same time it's too sterile and user-friendly. We need to help preserve the street art so that it's not lost for future generations. It’s obviously a difficult balance, but I think the real history and heritage of the area has been lost, and it is pretty over-run with the crowds. It's truly the age-old debate, analog vs. digital. Analog for me any day.
Disney World on the Hudson
Meatpacking Before & After
J. Crew for the High Line
Special West Chelsea