Reporting Jay Lloyd
I can still remember my fascination with elevated trains. In Manhattan as a kid, I was spellbound watching them rattle along the high tracks that shadowed a mass of pushcart peddlers, — all trying to hawk their goods against the sound of trains, traffic and a constant parade of shoppers. But most of the “el” lines eventually went underground, the colorful pushcart vendors moved indoors, and only the silent and overgrown tracks remained. Then someone had an idea, one that soon may become reality in Philadelphia on a section of abandoned Reading line tracks just north of Old City. But first, let’s look at New York’s High Line Park – a successful experiment in turning an eyesore into a recreational asset. It’s worth a weekend getaway. – Jay Lloyd
WHAT IS IT?
Imagine an old, abandoned freight train spur that served manufacturing plants and meat packing houses along a busy corridor in the heart of Manhattan. It was a gritty, industrial neighborhood that ran from just below 13th street to 30th along the Hudson River. The elevated track allowed the trains to run without impeding the traffic and commerce below. But when the trains stopped, New Yorkers were left with an eyesore that — thanks to some imagination — became the highly prized High Line Park, with dynamic Hudson River views that include the New Jersey riverside and the landmark Lackawanna train terminal. There’s an abundance of benches set amidst well-tended gardens where visitors can enjoy the scenery. Frequent free events and concerts attract New Yorkers and visitors alike, and the park can be accessed at convenient locations from Gansevoort Street to 30th.
The High Line threads its way through an old industrial section of town called Chelsea. Along the river, the view has prompted an explosion of tony high rise apartments, recreational piers, a highly trafficked public market, waterfront sipperies and boutique shopping. A few blocks to the east, we find the iconic Flatiron building and celebrity chef Mario Batali’s mega Italian import market and eatery, Eataly, which may or may not come to Philadelphia. It’s a vibrant neighborhood that derives extra vibe from young, dynamic, up-and-comers who work on Wall Street and the nearby fashion houses and populate the proliferation of Chelsea apartments.
WHERE TO EAT
If you want to stay on familiar ground and are comfortable with Stephen Starr dishes and the price tag that comes with them, two of his restaurants are within a block of the High Line – Buddakan and Morimoto. Both are Asian fusion with Morimoto favoring Japanese flair. You’ll find Morimoto on 10th Avenue between 14th and 15th. Buddakan occupies a cavernous space off 9th Avenue and 15th.
La Bottega – a bustling Italian spot with a busy neighborhood happy hour crowd. It occupies the ground floor of the Maritime Hotel on 16th Street and 9th Avenue. The rooms seem infused with the aroma of Bolognese. You’ll salivate from arrival to departure, and it’s reasonably priced for New York and located a block from the High Line.
Chelsea Market – In the shadow of the High Line, Chelsea Market occupies and entire city block between 15 and 16th on 9th Avenue. In addition to produce, butchers and seafood shops, this market cradles a profusion of restaurants and take-out spots with convenient tables, allowing you to sample from a variety of vendors. I head straight to the Lobster Place for some of the best pickled herring in New York. But you can go from pub fare to Thai, all under one massive roof.
Depending on where you want to access the High Line, take the A, C or E train to 14th or 23rd Streets and 8th Avenue. It’s a short walk to 10th Avenue. Cross town buses also run there from the east side. Once again, my usual New York tip: Don’t drive. There are too many other hassle-free, inexpensive ways of getting into and around Manhattan. Parking alone requires a second mortgage.
One note: There are plans underway to create a similar attraction in Philadelphia by converting the old Reading Viaduct that runs north from Vine Street to Fairmount just east of 10th. Let’s hope it comes to fruition!