NYC’s Stark Beauty – the High Line in Winter

by Naomi Young

This post has been reposted with the permission of the writer, Eileen Schneidman

As I walked across town to the High Line on a recent January afternoon, I wished I had worn a hat. What felt like a mild 38 degrees in Midtown now was a significantly colder city – and windier – the closer I got to the Hudson River. After ascending the 30th Street stairway, buffered by buildings and thirty feet above street level, I was comforted by the hush of the High Line.

It was nearing dusk, and the few people that were walking the concrete pathways were all wearing black. It was desolate, and I preferred it that way – especially over the bustling boardwalk scene that is the High Line in the summer.

I had plans to meet friends in the West Village. As I headed south, I was struck by the glorious palette of grays. It was a similar to being delighted by the many planes of a pop-up book.

Some textures leapt forward – the dusky wood in the benches, the ashen brick face of the older buildings, the battleship-colored train tracks cutting through the plantings.

While other grays receded – the pearly-hued railings, the mirrored rainwater troughs of “Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat),” the skyscraper glass reflecting the darkening sky.

Fooling me into thinking a sliver of winter sunlight had broken through the clouds, the subtle under-rail lighting illuminated the swaying grasses. As I neared the overpass, there was no mistaking the setting sun, burning orange as it was slowly swallowed by the horizon. Was that Lady Liberty in the distance? I had missed her during my summer visit, too distracted by the giant puppet advertising Missoni’s Target launch on the street below.

I didn’t want my walk to end. I spied an elderly man working at his desk, deep in thought. Another window featured row on top of row of green and orange bottles. Devoid of crowds, I noticed the grittier details, too: the graffiti, the broken window panes, the cinder block walls with cement dripping from the seams. It was beautiful, and completely befitting this blustery day.

At the Gansevoort Street exit, there was a bride and groom chicly dressed, halfway up the stairs, stopped and looking up. I hesitated. “It’s fine. You can come down,” the bride said to me, smiling. Jolted from my High Line reverie, I saw the photographer behind them and hurried past so as not to disrupt them. On to meet my friends, still preoccupied by the elevated walkway’s unexpected winter beauty.

The High Line is located on Manhattan’s West Side and is a public park built on an historic freight rail line. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. For more information, visit TheHighLine.org.

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