High Line Update: A Completed Work of Art


I first visited the High Line – New York’s famous elevated park along an abandoned railroad track – in 2013 when it was new and incomplete but already stunning, especially in August, as you can see in these photos.

Since then it’s become increasingly popular, spurred revitalization in a part of the city that needed it, and opened its final Phase 3 in 2014.

Feeling the pull of that new section, I made a day-trip to New York this week just to see it (for an amazing $36 round trip via BoltBus right from my neighborhood!). I saw that on a chilly Tuesday afternoon it was buzzing with people because locals and visitors alike just love it.

For me, as great as the design and the plants truly are, the main event is the city itself.

From the High Line you see parts of the city you’d otherwise never see as a visitor, including the gritty former Meatpacking District and the many, many new buildings cropping up along it. Talk about a borrowed landscape!

Cities across the U.S. and beyond are hoping to copy the High Line’s success with an elevated park of their own. Here in D.C. it’s the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia River, where the views from it will be very different – of a long-neglected river finally getting some money for development.

Cool murals and graphics have popped up along the way.

Some neighbors take advantage of their high-visibility location to make their points.

Plenty of walkers were stopping to admire the actual plants.

Speaking of plants, in late October I say thank goodness for asters. The many amsonias along the way were lovely but not yet the blazing orange they become in late fall.

Still-standing spent blooms tell us it’s fall.

If you love plants AND interesting buildings, as I do, strolling the High Line is a double feast for the eyes.

See those skyscrapers in the background? Washington, D.C. has exactly zero of them, so skylines anywhere else are exciting to me.

Shade plants, too. More city-watching.

In Phase 3 the High Line continues northward for a while…

Then it turns left toward the Hudson (above), and for the last few blocks celebrates the river and, according to the signage, “the iconic urban landscape that emerged after the trains stopped running.” It does that with “a simple path through the existing self-seeded plantings.”

Well, that just made me want to know more about the design of this Phase 3. Most instructive for me was a review in the New York Times, especially these bits:

Phase 3 of the elevated park, which opens on Sunday, is a heartbreaker, swinging west on 30th Street from 10th Avenue toward the Hudson River, straight into drop-dead sunset views. It spills into a feral grove of big-tooth aspen trees on 34th Street.

With more limited construction funds, the strategy in this part of the park was bare bones: Rusty tracks are filled in with bonded gravel to make a level path; timber dunnage is stacked to make a bleacher from which people can peer out at the water and over the rail yards; and nature is left to its own devices, giving visitors a glimpse of how the High Line looked before its makeover.

That’s all…until my next visit.


  1. I have a short list of gardens I’d like to see in person, and this is one of them. When or if I’ll ever get to see the High Line is debatable. Thanks for the tour!

  2. We went to the HL a year or two before Phase 3 opened. One of the highlights of my gardening life. It is amazing to see the changes in the surrounding architecture since in your photos. Literally just finished watching an amazing episode of Growing A Greener World about the High Line on PBS. Excellent program! Itching to go back. Unfortunately, it’ll cost us more than $36 for the trip, but it will be worth every penny.


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