the high line: before and after…videos by phil and christopher buehler

For anyone new to New York, The High Line – originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets (11th Ave. being known then as “Death Ave.”), and recently renovated by world-renowned architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro – is a must-see destination. Writing about it for Frommers after it first opened to the public in 2009, Sascha Segan sums up its role as the Big Apple’s latest hot-spot better than most:

“Less true park than promenade, the High Line knits together some of New York’s buzziest, most fashion-forward spots by weaving over, under, around and through. Photos are deceiving; there’s surprisingly little greenery on the High Line, and you can’t actually walk on the grass. But the people-watching, and wandering, is to die for. In true New York style, there’s a little bit of the High Line for everyone. Toddlers run laps in the confined space. Models recline on giant wooden armchairs. French tourists sit on benches, trying to figure out which of the dozen nearby high-end eateries offers the best brunch. Exhibitionistic couples show off  in the windows of the Standard Hotel, which appropriately straddles the park.”

Indeed, as an outdoor refuge, I initially found The High Line disappointing, expecting less concrete and more grass. L like London-based design critic Hugh Pearman, “I had worried. It’s only natural. The lure of dereliction, its especial beauty, is its very isolation and tragic transience. By this token, the idea of turning the secret world of Manhattan’s High Line into a linear, permanent public park could surely not succeed. But now [that] I have walked the first, and nearest-complete, section. I am impressed and delighted.” While I haven’t walked the entire length, I have explored more of its nooks and crannies than I had before,  (re)discovering some of its ragged charm, and finding myself wondering what it was like in its most decrepit stage. Lucky for me – and you! – my friend Phil Buehler documented the place back in 1981, and then again last summer. Merging “before” and “after ” shots taken from the same vantage, these ingenious little videos offer a wonderful, time-warp tour of  New York’s latest attraction, reported to double in size by next Spring. Enjoy!