Today is the fourth day of Pesach, and during Chol Hamoed just about every Jewish family in New York City wants to have some fun outdoors. A popular destination for so many New Yorkers, and so many tourists, is the High Line Park on the western edge of Manhattan.
This park is a fascinating anomaly: former commercial railroad train tracks that had been disused and left to rust, and turned into a beautiful elevated park nearly 2 miles long with art, amazing views, occasional performances, and not enough bathroom facilities. I have visited it perhaps a dozen times since it opened in 2009, and have seen how it has changed (it was made longer and has become much more crowded). Last summer I attended a night-time party at the High Line, where a few thousand of us wandered around and gazed at strange art installations and listened to moody modern music.
Yesterday I went with my teenage daughters; they had suggested going and I agreed it would be fun. It was very crowded. I am tempted to state that there were more tourists than New Yorkers there; people spoke French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese...and Yiddish. I heard at least one family chatting in a mixture of Yiddish (zeyde and bubbe) and English (the grandkids). There were other identifiable Jews strolling the length of the High Line, and like just about everyone else, taking photographs.
It was a fun time for me and my kids (although I had to nag two workers to replenish the toilet paper in the women's room located at the southern end of the park and believe me, lots of women were grateful for this). We snapped lots of pix, we admired a few quirky objets d'art, gazed at the new and old buildings surrounding the length of the park. We did not walk the whole route because my older daughter was in desperate need of a bathroom. So we exited at West 30th street and used the facilities at a deli on 9th Avenue.
As much as I do enjoy going to the High Line, there is a certain amount of taming down of the adventure here. I mean, wouldn't YOU like to walk on actual train tracks? At the High Line you are cordoned off from the tracks, because many have plants and pretty flowers planted amidst the wooden ties and metal parts of the former train tracks. Visitors must stay to the path, or can sit on benches and seating. But that aspect of old-time adventure is not present here.
However, on my birthday the week before, I had a chance to walk on real, abandoned train tracks in another part of New York City. I teach an after school class in the borough of Queens, and before going to the school I went to the neighborhood of Ozone Park, and looked for the abandoned train tracks.
The City wants to build a High Line-like park in Queens, to be dubbed the "Queensway," that would incorporate a disused train line that ran through central Queens. Work is beginning on this and I wanted to check it out. Sure enough, I followed a map I found online and located a spot to walk onto the tracks. Mind you, I may have been trespassing (ahem) when I slipped through the large hole in a fence and walked above.
Unlike the High Line park, I was the ONLY person walking around at that time. (And the start of a light drizzle may not have helped.) These train tracks were overgrown with plants. There was garbage, some of it quite rusty and grungy, on the tracks. Graffiti graced a wall that blocked off one section. Small animals scampered about. It was rustic, quiet, and picturesque. And a bit of an adventure for someone turning 53 years old.
Unlike the now-slick High Line, this was a mess. And it was lots of fun to visit.
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