An Aerial Stroll in New York

 I climb the steps at the Gansevoort Street end of the mile long raised and meandering High Line Park cum walkway and I am in for a surprise. This was no defunct freight train track cantilevering directly into factories of the crowded Meat Packing and Chelsea districts but a transformed aerial greenway beginning from the Meatpacking district or MePa with its cobbled streets and some of the best eating places of New York (Spice Market), through bohemian Chelsea with its art galleries and restaurants, the major section is in Chelsea, onto the southern part of Hells Kitchen/Clinton and running around the West Side Rails between 10th and 12th Avenues and 30th and 33rd streets. Whats important is that the High Line is wheel chair accessible and there are elevators at certain points and this  accounts for the steady stream of nearly 2000 visitors annually.

Glimpse of Hudson River and Statue of Liberty

It is mid afternoon and the direct sun is no deterrence to tourists and New Yorkers reveling in the implanted ambience of nearly 210 plant species shaded by the glitzy and constantly changing city skyline. Glimpses of the placid Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and the cliffs of New Jersey on the opposite side suggest spaciousness. The birch and Ipe benches strategically placed along the track are welcome relaxing breaks and the cache of water above 14th street adds to the holiday spirit with children, old and  young frolicking in the foot high water. It is a perfect setting for a hot day.

The Bleechers, 10th Avenue

I follow the crowd on this promenade-and-town square fusion through the bends and turns dotted with sun decks, Art Deco railings, burnt sienna grass and profusion of flowers. At some point the High Line tunnels under three different buildings to open up into an amphitheater suspended over 10th Avenue. From far one assumes that there is some activity going on and coming closer it is families and loners enjoying mini picnics, listening to music or just gazing onto the street below. The second section, north of 20th Street, is a landscaped ambience of flowers and grass and another sitting area. 

The High Line started out as a community preservation project to save an abandoned railway track and it has worked. The elevated train tracks and the once dubious havens along its periphery are bustling tourist hot spots imbibing the hues of the city with designer stores, boutique and designer hotels, an example the aerodynamic glass façade of the Neil Denari designed HL23 condominium on 23rd street, newly opened outdoor roller skating rink, restaurants, art galleries and artists studios. Viewed from the streets of West Chelsea the High Line is another conspicuous art hunk in the midst of brown stones and traffic.

New York …Brooklyn Bridge

Navigating the expanse of Brooklyn Bridge is a popular touristy adventure in New York along with drooling at the Statue of Liberty, slouching across Times Square to gaze at the giant Apple as in Apple brand, strolling the High line bridge or the walkaway in the Meat packing district, the grass-hop across Central Park and other scintillating activities in co-ordination with inclination.

It is an energizing breeze pushing the walkers, joggers, cyclists, locals and tourists intent on spanning the endless mile and I am humming ‘Brooklyn bridge is falling down’ ( actually London) thanks to a slight swaying mechanism at every step on this oldest suspension bridge in the USA (1883) spanning the East River. John Roebling, the designer of the bridge, had contented that the three separate systems to manage unanticipated structural stresses would support each other, ‘The bridge may sag, but it will not fall.’  Looking at the continuous flow of people and vehicular traffic one does admire the structure.

The wide pedestrian walkway in the center of the Bridge, a level above the car lane, is an ideal way to acculturize oneself with the history of New York. The Bridge was completed in 1883 and was originally the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. In 1915 it was renamed the Brooklyn Bridge by the city government and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. The Bridge connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and is accessible from the Brooklyn entrances of Tillary/Adams Streets, the Sands/Pearl Streets and Exit 28B of the eastbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. From Manhattan, the pedestrian walkway is accessible from end of Centre Street or through the south staircase of Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall IRT subway station. It was the only connection when all means of communication stalled on 9/11.

View from the Promenade

One mile appears a few steps and the Manhattan skyline, from Brooklyn side, is the tiara on the still elegant, vermillion-lipsticked dowager, New York,  ready for extra doses of Botox and tucks.

We step onto land, the city that was previously a small 17th century Dutch town of “Breuckelen” on the East River shore of Long Island that in 1898 along with the rural areas of Queens and Staten Island transformed into a patchwork of neighborhoods steeped in 400 years of history and abuzz with the collective energy of nearly 2.3 million residents.  Brooklyn soon became the favored city of immigrants from different corners of the world… Korean, Chinese, Creole, Arabic, Spanish, Indian, East Europeans…

We take the road towards Brooklyn Heights instead of Dumbo, on the North east, which does not have anything to do with being dumb, but is a quintessential arty area with galleries and town houses. Giving it company are the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill.

Henry Street, a wide and quiet street, is flanked by restaurants including Henry’s End and we had breakfast brunch at Sigdeys. The neighborhood of picturesque row houses interspersed with old Federal-style 19th century houses, Italian brownstones, brick Greek and Gothic Revival houses, especially along Pierrepont Street and Pierrepont Place reverse the clock to another decade. Another street, Smith Street or Brooklyn’s “Restaurant Row” is swamped with eateries and watering holes that opened during the late 1990s and early 2000s with migration of chefs from Manhattan diversifying into self-businesses. Another interesting area is Cobble Hill Park, at the intersection of Congress and Clinton Streets, reconstructed in 1989 and reflecting the brick and stone character of the tree lined neighborhood. The trendy boutiques, clubs and restaurants contribute to the growing popularity of Cobble Hill as an upscale weekend nightlife destination. Another unique feature of this area are the front-garden town houses giving a green look to rows of Italianate style brownstones.

The Brooklyn Promenade cantilevered over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) is an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll, jogging, cycling or pet walking. The usp of the Promenade is the magnificent view of the Statue of Liberty, the swaggering Manhattan skyline across the East River, as well as views of the two Bridges, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge. The Promenade is dandified with flower beds, trees, benches, playgrounds, grand townhouses and mansions. It was from Brooklyn Heights that George Washington watched the Battle of Brooklyn unfold into a terrible defeat for the young Colonial Army. Under the cover of darkness on August 29th, Washington’s army crossed the East River from Fulton Ferry, below where the Brooklyn Bridge rises today, leaving Brooklyn to the British.

The Brooklyn prefix is continous ….Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Promenade  and one can spend an entire day in this part of Brooklyn with limited possibilities of getting bored.

 “It’d take a guy a lifetime to know Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo,” …. “An’ even den, yuh wouldn’t know it all”. (Thomas Wolfe).

Statue of Liberty…from the Bridge