Visitors to the just-unveiled High Line at the Rail Yards park can now walk continuously from Gansevoort to 34th streets, taking in vistas of city life below, the Hudson River and landscaped greenery blossoming from abandoned rail tracks.
The 30-foot elevated park's $35 million expansion, which opens this weekend, is the project's third and final phase -- the climax of years of planning, litigation, fundraising, construction, landscape architecture, and two men's dream.
Where a bustling rail line once choo-chooed from 1934 to 1980 along Manhattan's westernmost stretches, bringing meat to the Meatpacking District, there now sits a 1.45-mile wonderland of trees, grasses, shrubs and perennials, all free and open to the public.
"At one time, it connected the West Side with meats and fresh fruits," said City Councilman Corey Johnson. "Now, it's connecting the West Side with people and children and seniors."
Inspired by the Promenade plantée in Paris, the park has helped catalyze the gentrification of the Chelsea and nearby neighborhoods. Luxury high-rises tower over byways that only decades ago symbolized urban decay. Trendy nightclubs, art galleries and high-priced boutiques dot the landscape below. Nearby is the gigantic Hudson Yards development.
The High Line's first section, spanning Gansevoort to West 20th streets, opened in 2009, and Saturday politicians and the two men who dreamed up the idea for the park, locals Joshua David and Robert Hammond, helped cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the final section, the northernmost part, that goes from West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to 12th Avenue and then to 34th Street.
More than 4 million people have visited the park since it opened five years ago, park officials say.
To commemorate the final stretch's debut, neighborhood groups marched the length of the park, playing music and hoisting artistic displays.
The expanded section officially was to open Sunday, but the public was let in beginning Saturday afternoon, said High Line spokeswoman Jennifer Pastrich.
The High Line almost didn't happen. Decades ago, owners of nearby property tried to get demolished the structure where the park now stands, but activists successfully fought those plans, and it remained unused and in a state of disrepair for years. Then, in 1999, David and Hammond conceived their idea for what would become the High Line.
The project cost well more than $150 million in taxpayer and private funds.
It is maintained mostly through the private Friends of the High Line and managed with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.