On the High Line: The Lull Before the Storm

August 27, 2011 by


Toddler poses for us on The High Line. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

With cloudless cobalt blue skies above and people coming out of the woodwork, you wouldn’t have known yesterday that Hurricane Irene’s wrath was predicted to hit New York City the next evening.


Enjoying the sunshine on one of the built-in wood sliding chaise longues. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Accompanied by a friend visiting from Chicago, I walked the High Line from its beginning at 14th Street to the end of the newest portion, Section 2, at 30th Street.


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Walking the High Line is different every time I go–something new is always in bloom.


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.


Hydrangeas against a backdrop of brick. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.


One lone red leaf signals the onset of Autumn. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

High Line Vendors: Wait It Out or Go?


You could still get ice cream, but the coffee vendor was closing down. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

One vendor, from whom we wanted to buy a coffee, turned us down saying she had just turned off her power and was preparing to leave, worried about the impending storm. Others would be there till the first drop of rain or gust of wind.

Relaxing and Playing Before the Storm


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Part of Section 2, a strip of lawn, above, abuts a wall of tiered decking providing seating.


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Kids ran along the planted walks, lovers kissed, and everyone was out generally enjoying the last spectacular summer day before Irene’s hostile visit.

For the Birds, Butterflies, and Ladybugs
Feasting on apples, sipping water, and flying from perch to perch, even the birds were taking advantage of the beautiful day on artist Sarah Sze’s installation, Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat), the High Line’s contemporary bird condos.


Modern bird condos along the High Line. Room and board included. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Sitting between 20th and 21st Streets, the sculptural steel and wood construction of bird, ladybug and butterfly condos marks the entrance onto the High Line microclimate often referred to as the Chelsea Thicket.


Birds feeding on the High Line. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

In stark contrast to the Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel luxury buildings visible from the High Line, these Manhattan spaces include room and board: High Line attendants fill the feeding trays with seeds and nectar, while specially designed miniature troughs collect rainwater for thirsty birds.

Steppin’ Out on a Nice Day


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

We made some friends along the route. When it’s a gorgeous day, people get very friendly.


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

The security guard, above, was happy to pose for us. We were looking for the pop-up skating rink, and like many things, it was already closed for the hurricane.

A Collage of Contrasts
One of the things I most enjoy about the High Line is the contrast of textures and images, of soft foliage against industrial materials like metal and stone, of nature against urban development. The flowers below are especially interesting against the backdrop of the black and white billboard.


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton


Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

Theater of High Line Neighbors
Sort of site-specific theater in and of it’s own, the High Line borders a number of new buildings whose large glass windows face directly onto the space, offering a great view of the High Line, but precious little privacy to those who live there. Some take advantage of this and use their spaces for public art installations. A while back, I saw two women perform a skit on their High Line facing balcony for passersby.


A private art installation encourages public viewing of a private space. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.


Driftwood privacy screen offers a bit of privacy. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Some residents, however, do the best to maintain a modicum of privacy for their outdoor spaces. On a balcony, above, a clever natural all-season privacy screen created from various lengths of driftwood. It must have taken a while to haul it all upstairs.

Irene, Please Go Easy on Us!


No dumplings, pizza, or falafel today. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Posted on the fence of the adjacent lot at 30th Street, where on a beautiful day you’d find a pop-up rollerskating rink and some of New York City’s most popular food trucks: closed due to Hurricane Irene.

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