Tag Archives: public parks

Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.


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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


High Line in late November 2012

Must I really squeeze in one more post on the High Line in 2012? Have we become bored and cynical already about this dream of a garden on an abandoned railway trestle made real against seemingly insurmountable odds? (Yes to the former and a resounding no! to the latter. Not on my blog anyway.) I don’t know if the hipster doll left on the High Line a few weeks ago was meant to allude to recent controversies revolving around accusations that the runaway success of the High Line park was responsible for “Disneyfying” the surrounding neighborhood.


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At least I think it’s a toy. The photographer didn’t say. Left purposely or simply forgotten, I just hope there was no anti-hipster voodoo involved.
MB Maher was in NYC last week and grabbed a quick portrait of the High Line in early winter, including this well-dressed hobo debating whether to ride the rails. (Possible caption: Is relentless pursuit of the hip a train to nowhere?)

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More signs of affection for the High Line.

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The High Line without Oudolf’s emotional planting would still be worth visiting for the great views, similar to strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge.

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Giving us access to views previously granted only to birds.

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Nourishment for us, nourishment for the birds.

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Laying down new tracks in urban garden design: Is it a garden threaded through a city, or is the city now threaded through a garden?

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Because urban parks aim for creating utilitarian space, they are oftentimes monocultures, stripped of species diversity. A garden aims for the transformative, urging us to escape into another world. I think the High Line successfully merges urban park and garden, simultaneously intensifying the appreciation of both the built and natural world by immersion in both.

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Tidy, formal parks, with their authoritarian focal points, can seem like bon-bons attempting to satisfy ravenous, denatured urban appetites. I find that the shifting perspectives, stark contrasts, and wildly rich plantings make the High Line a four-season feast.

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Last post on the High Line for 2012, I swear.


Edited to correct photo attribution; photos 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 taken by J. Mericle/threadandbones.

wall street occupies central park

From Wikipedia: “Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another.”

New York City’s Central Park has found a patron to rival the Medicis. Hedge fund manager John. A. Paulson has gifted Central Park $100 million.

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photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

It’s about time that parks saw some major philanthropic action too.

Asked what prompted the gift, he said: ‘Walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that, in my mind, Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York’s cultural institutions. And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large, and its endowment is relatively small.’” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

From the Central Park Conservancy website: “Eighty-five percent of Central Park’s $46 million annual expense budget comes from private donations. Central Park has received an unprecedented gift of $100 million from John A. Paulson and the Paulson Family Foundation to help sustain the progress we’ve made since 1980 and ensure that generations to come will be able to make their own memories here.”

New York City parks are really feeling the love lately. What a roll they’ve been on the past couple years:

The gift is the latest in a year in which city parks emerged as major beneficiaries of philanthropy, joining more traditional recipients like museums, hospitals and universities. A year ago, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation pledged $20 million to the High Line, the elevated park on the West Side of Manhattan; that donation followed two other gifts to the High Line from the foundation, totaling $15 million. In April, Joshua P. Rechnitz, an amateur track cyclist, announced a gift of $40 million to Brooklyn Bridge Park to build a field house with a cycling track.” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

The Low Line (really)

Credit goes to New York for currently being the city with the most moxie, ingenuity, and brass-balled chutzpah in creating new public parks. (See Frank Bruni’s 7/14/12 piece in the NYT’s Sunday Review “Our Newly Lush Life.”) New York’s recent success with parks illustrates two important points: Where space is at a premium, look again at existing, abandoned infrastructure. When money is tight, get creative with public/private relationships. New York is aiming to build on the enormous success of the High Line, the abandoned elevated railway transformed into one of the most exciting public/private garden collaborations of recent years, but this time going underground.

Yes, underground, where the sun don’t shine.


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With a moon-shot, can-do, New York swagger, co-creators of the Delancey Underground project, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, envision light reaching the abandoned Delancey Street Trolley Station through “a large system of mirrors and fiber optics to transport sunlight from the streets above into the cavernous facility, filling the space with enough natural lighting to even allow plants to grow.” (“The Low Line – New York’s First Underground Park“)

Architectural Digest’s 5/11/12 Daily Ad reported on a soiree held to benefit the High Line and ended with this intriguing snippet:

As for New York’s next great park, Boykin Curry, a partner at Eagle Capital Management, and his wife, interior designer Celerie Kemble, mentioned a project they’re currently championing: the Low Line. ‘Some friends and I have been collaborating on this,’ explained Curry of the proposed two-acre subterranean park that would occupy a former trolley terminal on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. ‘A friend of ours is an engineer who invented the technology to bring sunlight below ground, so you can grow trees and grass there,’ he continued. ‘We’re working on it with the MTA and the city.’ Fingers crossed.”

No, I’m not making this up. You can read more about the Low Line here and here. Initial fund-raising goal was met on Kickstarter this past April.