Is the High Line Park "A Tad Fatuous" or "A Gorgeously Executed Gem"?

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

When I tried to walk the High Line on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in May this year, I could only think of Yogi Berra's line about a restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." I wondered if it was going to be killed by its own success while I marvelled at how well it was done. At The Millions, Michael Bourne looks at it and writes:

The High Line is the distressed skinny jeans of public parks, the gourmet taco truck of urban tourist attractions, and as such, it represents the high-water mark of the hipster aesthetic, which venerates poverty and decay as signifiers of authenticity. Thirty feet in the air, winding through the remains of one of the last blue-collar work sites Manhattan, the High Line is a monument to gentrification, a showcase of what can happen when hip young college graduates invade an impoverished area and repopulate it with art galleries and fancy restaurants. But here’s the truly amazing part: it all works. The underlying aesthetic of the park’s design may be a tad fatuous, girded as it is by unexamined assumptions about working-class authenticity, but the park itself is a gorgeously executed gem.

It's a little quieter in the evening/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I think Bourne has a point here, a point that can be made whenever a neighbourhood changes:

What you make of it is largely determined by what you think of its underlying subject, which in this case is gentrification. If you are part of the community pushed out by the new wealth gentrification inevitably brings, then no doubt the High Line’s precious attention to symbols of decay and ruin — all those meticulously landscaped weeds — will seem calculated to piss you off. If, on the other hand, you are part of a gentrifying wave, as so much of young New York now is, then the High Line will seem to be singing from your hymnal, and you will revel in the distressed steel girders and exposed brick walls.

More in the Millions

Tags: New York City | Urban Life | Urban Planning

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