Thursday, July 23, 2009

Upper High Line

Recession or no, construction continues full throttle along the High Line's yet undeveloped northern parts. Curbed recently reported on a giant hotel and condo complex that will take down a few of the existing low-rises and blue-collar businesses. There are gaping holes where more hotels will grow. Condos bloat and shoulder their way between leather bars and strip joints. Before we know it, the entire neighborhood as it currently exists will have vanished.

Today, it is not yet the glittering showpiece the developers want it to be. It's still raw. Still rough around the edges. There are interesting things to see. Like fully functioning scrap yards.

Auto repair shops where busy mechanics take their breaks in the noontime sun, to sit on the sidewalk with eyes closed, catching short siestas.

Flat fix shops with tires stacked in neat, braided piles. Taxi garages and medallion operations. And the fantastic Terminal Food Shop, aka Poppy's, serving deli food under big animal heads since 1981.

Out here, you feel like you're on the edge of things, outside of today's city. It is an odd sort of respite. No one walks with cell phones here. No one pushes double-wide baby strollers. There is no noise of clacking heels bearing down on you. The sidewalks are uncrowded. You pass by weedy little lots that smell of wildflowers and bodily fluids.

At the end of the High Line, at 10th Ave and 30th St, where it breaks into a dead-end spur and bends west to empty into the railyards, it's still wild on top, overflowing ungroomed and ramshackle.

Underneath, invisible men make their beds.

And cast a vivid litter of rose petals.

See all my photos of this area on my flickr

Also see:
The New High Line
Glassing West Chelsea


EV Grieve said...

Excellent report, Jeremiah. How much longer befoe these places vanish? Soon as a few condos go up, I'm sure the residents will complain about the noise, the smell, the men who dare to sneak a peak at their tanned, shiny legs click-click-clicking by in spiky heels.

Alex in NYC said...

Nice work, JM

esquared™ said...

I still think that turning that railyard into Highline -- a public park -- is just a "front" to raise the property values in that area. Once these places, which are still gritty, are gentrified and those condos and hotels are built, I bet ya Highline will become a private park; Bloomberg will make sure of that in the next 4 or whatever years he wants to run this city.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i believe it was definitely done, at least in part, to raise property values.

we see it on a much smaller scale with jackson square park, which was beautified and guarded when the big condo came in.

these "public" parks are amenities for condos, and the public is invited to visit. but you can "gate" a public space without putting up gates--a certain atmosphere will control who comes in.

Ken Mac said...

an important time capsule post. Soon, it will all be gone.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I lived in this area about ten years ago. Back then, it wasn't a good idea to walk west of 9th Ave. I recall it being so very desolate, especially on weekends when the garages were closed. There'd be garbage trucks on blocks, taxi body parts strewn all over the place...I made the mistake of walking around in a short skirt one afternoon and was taken for a prostitute - absolutely mortifying.

Then, The Park opened on 10th Ave and that seemed to be the beginning of the big change. With that place came all the shrieking SATC girls and the idiots who carry their bags. The garages closed and were replaced with art galleries. I enjoyed the emergence of the art scene, but at the same time, it pushed out people like me. I could no longer afford the neighborhood...and I like to think I'm a hard-working, creative person who deserved to live where I did.

For those wondering why places like Koi on the Bowery are causing such a fuss, this would be my reason. These high-end places move in and attract a certain patron who has no other business in the neighborhood. They flock to the trendy places, but do not patronize the small local businesses, and raise hell because they don't live there and don't care. Eventually, it dawns on them that they'd like to live closer to their entertainment - do they improve upon what is there in the neighborhood? Say, renovating a century-old walk-up or historic building? No, just raze it all and put up the same soulless glass luxury condo, push out the residents, and obliterate the very culture that made the neighborhood so attractive in the first place.

Egmont said...

Is it possible in 21st century NYC to experience irony without a hint of sadness and regret?
i.e. preservation of the Highline will destroy the surronding neighborhood...

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite places to walk. Reminds me of scenes from the movie, Smithereens. Please watch it. And go on a walk in this neighborhood.

Folks, just a year or so, and I believe our fair New York will be casting off these SATC types and once again be the flawed, beautiful Mecca that it always was.

Ed said...

Why wasn't the High Line renovated and used for passenger trains? If the goal is to develop the area, one of the problems presumably is that the closest subway line is on 8th Avenue. A trolley using the High Line tracks, going from the subway on 34th Street right into the heart of the Meatpacking District would have filled a transportation gap and been a tourist attraction in its own right.

Instead they built a version of the promenade in Battery Park City, but elevated. I suppose if you oppose gentrification of the area you should be happy that TPTB screwed this one up.

Ed said...

On Koi, my argument simply was that there are already something like twenty versions of Koi on the LES. I don't seen what difference another one makes. That particular battle is lost, the area is analogous with the Meatpacking District four years ago.

I've become convinced that what is driving this is the increasing inequality of wealth in the US. Essentially, the wealthy have designated Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn as one of their enclaves. Since the recession actually seems to be increasing inequality, I"m not optimistic.

esquared™ said...

Like you said...

The Selling of New York’s Parks

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I would rather see trains running again on the High Line. Less trucks, more trains.

- Versus

chris s said...

What is happening in the high line has been happening the area just around Queens Plaza. Some of the housing stock had to go - nothing of great interest yet, there are streets with a cool mix of housing styles with more uniform areas. What gets me is how the city supports this untenable high density housing and expectation our economic health should center solely around hotels and condos. Guess what happens to the hotels if the population lowers which is quite probable and the economic model is a smaller scale - we get SRO's and abandoned buildings at worst, or they turn to apartment buildings and you get an overdeveloped Midtown East or Lefrak City.

What should be done is an city wide version of Queens crap which is chronicling this cancer.