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The High Line, like many things in New York City, was nearly invisible — or just another part of the city’s infrastructure to most New Yorkers who were passing by. It was originally built in the early 1930s to eliminate street level fatalities (Tenth Avenue was popularly known then as “Death Avenue”) and to allow direct rail access to the factories and warehouses lining Manhattan’s West Side. Running from 34th Street to the Holland Tunnel — the High Line was active until the late 1970s when truck traffic and the interstate system rendered it mostly useless.

The southern section, from Gansevoort street to the Holland Tunnel was demolished in sections between 1963 and 1991 and the remaining carcass was a prime target for demolition under mayors Koch and Guilani. Eventually, activists and historians united under the umbrella of “Friend’s of the High Line” prevailed and the city pledged to turn the abandoned structure into an elevated greenway early this century.

I’m not sure exactly when I became aware of the High Line, but once you noticed it, it was hard to forget. There were giant graffiti pieces visible from street level and in the spring and summer you could see a ragged blaze of green sprouting from the otherwise lifeless tracks. I remember walking along Tenth and Eleventh Avenues — peering up at the hulking structure and wondering how I could get up there.

Eventually, I figured out that you could cut through the CSX train yard at the northern end and as long as the guard in the booth didn’t see you, you’d be all set as long as you didn’t run into any workers.

After the Meatpacking District, the High Line snakes north through Chelsea.

/ Sam Horine

The first time I walked the High Line, it was a chilly February day, snow had been falling all morning and I was in the area for a Banksy opening. After battling with capacity crowds in a rickety three-story house/gallery, I walked out and into the shadow of the tracks and decided that today was a good day to explore. After walking north for a couple of minutes, I cut through a truck lot and made my way up onto the tracks where they came close to ground level. Head down and at a quick clip, I passed by the security shack and I was on my own. The snow had stopped but the sky was still steely and my breath frosty. I made my way down the tracks, eventually passing over the gallery opening. There was a line stretching down the block and I looked back at the lone set of tracks winding behind me and it was absolutely stunning to be completely alone in a city of millions. I continued down into the 20s, stopping to check out the graffiti and elevated views of people passing by below. As darkness descended upon the city, the temperature dropped and I headed back — determined to come back again in the near future.

This once prominent REVS / COST has recently been buffed as the northern section of the High Line approaches completion.

/ Sam Horine

Fast forward a couple of years and the High Line was now a park and, for whatever reason, I hadn’t seen it yet in person. I had a couple of errands to run in the Meatpacking District and figured it was about time to check it out in person. I climbed up the steel staircase at the Gansevoort Street entrance and entered into a world that was remarkable similar to the old High Line and yet unmistakably different.

The Standard Hotel’s “Boom Boom Room” reputedly has one of the toughest doors in New York City.

/ Sam Horine

The rails had been removed and replaced with slick concrete structures. Wooden benches lined the sides at angles that made them look as if they were designed by skateboard toting kids and along both sides there were planters filled with wildflowers and native shrubs. I passed under the massively cantilevered Standard Hotel and glanced down at all the people at the beer garden below. For a second it seemed as if nothing had changed. As a baby toting couple strolled by, I was however, quickly, slapped back into the reality of the situation.

Small shops, located under the High Line, once supplied a multitude of services.

/ Sam Horine

I continued along, passing through the old Nabisco factory and Spencer Finch’s installation of “The River Which Flows Both Ways” (2008-2009) before coming upon a small amphitheater four or five levels of descending seating which terminated at a glass window overlooking “Death Avenue.”

Looking west toward New Jersey on the northernmost section of the High Line.

/ Sam Horine

Gathered there, perched above the once notorious avenue, was a collection of tourists and locals, chatting and snacking on sandwiches from the nearby stand. It had all worked about as well as could be hoped.

People line up in anticipation of Banksy’s first unofficial New York City show, which took place years ago.

/ Sam Horine

The Standard Hotel is a massive cantilevered beast that looms over the High Line in the Meatpacking District.

/ Sam Horine

Native plants flourish in the summer months.

/ Sam Horine

Spencer Finch’s art installation consists of thousands of 1 pixel images.

/ Sam Horine

A look down reveals the neighborhood’s not too distant industrial past.

/ Sam Horine

A micro-garden exists where trains once parked to unload into nearby warehouses.

/ Sam Horine

On a cold and snowy Sunday, my tracks were the lone sign of life atop the High Line.

/ Sam Horine

Looking east toward the Empire State building.

/ Sam Horine

Graffiti was once a common sight along the looming factory walls lining the High Line.

/ Sam Horine

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Sam Horine

Sam Horine is a Photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. He's a regular explorer of forgotten, abandoned and under-appreciated places. In his spare time he enjoys rooftops, BBQ's and pets. He's a frequent contributor...

8 replies on “The High Line Park: Before & After”

  1. we used to climb up onto the high line using a staircase at little west 13th, sit on the platform just south of where DVF is now, smoke pot and and watch the sun set over the west river around 1986 to 1992 before everything down there got renovated – super cool thing about it was the ‘piano and chainsaws’ shot in the old ‘art of noise – close to the edit’ video? they did that in the tunnel where the spencer finch is now and just ditched the piano after, so there was this busted up piano in the graffiti and weeds. you can get an idea of what the south end looked like pre-renovation here:

  2. I haven’t been since it warmed up. My favorite part of the view there is the Standard Hotel. I never even knew this structure existed until all of the media attention towards its renovation last year.

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