Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ground Zero Now and downtown in New York City!

The High Line
       After our niece's wedding in May we spent a couple days in New York City. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel on 8th Ave and 48th Street so we would be near our shows around Broadway. But on the second day, a cousin who is native to the city picked us up and decided to show us a few sights we had never seen. We headed downtown by car.
     . We parked the car and walked up onto the High Line walkway that was once the elevated train down there, a portion of the old West Side line of the New York Central Line spur. Briefly the history of this line began in 1929, but with the shift to transcontinental trucking in the 1950s, this line slowly lost one of its chief commercial supports. The southern end of the line was demolished in 1960. Though trains operated on parts of the line until 1980, it was closed from that point until 2009. Instead of tearing down these elevated platforms on which trains used to run, it cost less to develop these old track platforms into gardens and walkways. The planting beds are the old track lines many with the rails still in place. The plantings are mostly native often showcasing the plants that had colonized the old right of way. The hardscape in addition to walkways and plazas includes built in benches, chaise lounges and in one place chaises that roll on the rails to take advantage of the sun at different times of the day. Many people utilize these irregular green spaces for lunch, for reading, for sunning, or just for walking from one place to the other. Food vendors and other vending kiosks have begun to occupy spaces along these walks and there is an atmosphere of serenity and healthy activity. And the green walkways are actually safer than the street below. Although originally no one could explain this, it appears it is because these walkways are visible from the buildings that adjoin them. Therefore when you walk these spaces, you are never alone as you might be on the street below. It is along one of these green areas that the Whitney Museum of Art is building an annex, instead of adding on to its museum in Midtown. Real estate prices near the High Line have risen and much high end living space and commercial space has moved in nearby. The High Line now stretches from 3 blocks south of 14th Street (Gansevoort Street) to 30th Street. There is a Stage 3 currently under construction at the north end which will extend in a sharp turn west and then north to 34th Street.  Here are some photos of these spaces.

The Standard Hotel is a new property built over the walkway.
The IAC Building (at left) by Frank Gehry, located at 18th Street.

The Chelsea Market Building, once the National Biscuit Co. factory.

Looking east toward Lower Manhattan.

Looking west across the Hudson from the High Line.
The plantings among the remaining rails of the old West Side Line.

     Near this green space is the famous Chelsea Market of Lower Manhattan. In fact the High Line actually passes through the 2nd floor of the Chelsea Market building. What a colorful place the food concourse is. If I lived and cooked in New York city I would definitely make this at least a weekly stop. There are multiple shops and boutiques in addition to all the food markets. Restaurants located on the food concourse cooperate with the food markets so that the freshest produce, meats and sea food are readily available for both retail and food preparation. And all spaces and corridors take advantage of the character of the building itself with the visible infrastructure. The main building pictured below was once the National Biscuit Company factory, the makers of Oreo Cookies.  Many of the original brick walls and arches of the building add the charm of this venue. Across 10th Avenue, accessed by a pedestrian bridge, office space is available which has offered space to several media titans: Oxygen Network, Food network, a local cable TV station, recently Google and other media companies.

Between 14th and 15th Street, the tracks of the High Line run through the
second floor of the Chelsea Market Building.

Inside Chelsea Market building.

A few photos from the sea food market.

Another long corridor inside Chelsea Market building.
     I was prompted to include these photos from our May New York visit now, because just a few days ago, the lighted spire was placed atop the Freedom Tower, the tallest building in the United States counting the spire as was decided by a so called "Tall Building Council" just today in Chicago. It has been 12 years since crazy militant individuals in the name of Islam, having hijacked that religion, flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York city.  I was so refreshed by the remarkable changes that have taken place in Lower Manhattan. The area is booming. There are all sorts of new buildings down there which have sprung up to fill in the void left after that devastating disaster of 2001. Our photos show the beauty of this building and of this area of the southern tip of Manhattan. There is a wide boulevard with a lot of green space between the lanes of the boulevard. It stretches from east to west across the island down there with Freedom Tower serving as its axis.
The spire being placed atop the Freedom Tower.

Freedom Tower

The base of Freedom Tower

All new buildings around Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower in May; it is now complete.

     One of the great characteristics of the Big Apple is its neighborhoods. Our cousins then drove us to their apartment in Forest Hills, Queens. Near their apartment building is an area of brick homes dating to the 1910s which has a flavor unlike what you would expect in any of the boroughs of New York, but instead seemingly would be more at home out on Long Island. This area is entered at Station Square just off Queens Boulevard and is called Forest Hills Gardens. This lovely area was a planned community started in 1909 to provide homes to upper middle class people who wished to commute to Manhattan. The Tudor and Colonial homes that characterize this area have been lovingly maintained and now sell for anywhere from 1.5 million to as much as 4 million. Surrounding the Forest Hills Garden area is Forest Hills itself, now the most exclusive area in Queens for apartments and condominiums and some single family homes as well. Forest Hills was once the home of the US Open Tennis Championship at the West Side Tennis Club, until in 1977 the tournament moved to Flushing Meadows. Here are some photos of the single family home areas of Forest Hills  Gardens.

Station Square entrance to Forest Hills Gardens

       Our cousin lives in one of the apartment buildings of Forest Hills. Below he is showing us his building and inviting us in for lunch. We ended the day with a very enjoyable social visit at their apartment. They love their city and we were glad they took the time to show us some of these little visited areas of the Big Apple.

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