black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.


If the newest, last stretch of the High Line doesn’t make you fall in love with New York all over again, I really don’t know what to say. 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.

It’s hard to believe now that some New Yorkers once thought renovating the decrepit elevated rail line was a lousy idea. Not since Central Park opened in 1857 has a park reshaped New Yorkers’ thinking about public space and the city more profoundly. Like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Spain, it has spread a dream, albeit largely a pipe dream, around the world: how one exceptional design — in this case, a work of landscape architecture — might miraculously alter a whole neighborhood, even a whole city’s fortunes.

Yes, at roughly $35 million, Phase 3, like the rest of the High Line, cost more per acre than probably any park in human history. With most city parks struggling to make ends meet, that kind of money is an inevitable source of resentment, notwithstanding that the High Line was, in significant measure, constructed and is almost exclusively maintained with private funds.”

But this third phase completes a kind of narrative, which the two earlier phases started, about 21st-century New York as a greener, sleeker metropolis, riven by wealth, with an anxious eye in the rearview mirror. It is a Rorschach test, signifying different things — about urban renewal, industry, gentrification, the environment — to different people. Occupying an in-between sort of space between buildings, neighborhoods, street and sky, the park makes a convenient receptacle for meaning. Neither an authentic ruin nor entirely built from scratch, a sign of runaway capital but also common ground, it is a modern landmark capitalizing on the romance of a bygone New York — the “real,” gritty city — a park born of the very forces that swept that city away.”

Photos: NG

"Balk: Mary, how on earth could anyone leave New York? And b) Why does everyone who leaves New York have to write about it?

MHKC: I love New York but sometimes New York is so mean to you. And I needed a level up. Los Angeles is a decent level up because they pay you lots and lots of money for whatever you’re verbing for them. The thing about leaving New York is that you can come back. This way you don’t have to tread water and cry and feel a low-grade panic attack the whole time. I think this last winter broke my fucking brain.

b) Because we’re all assholes and because it’s the craziest feeling to leave New York. It does absolutely feel like capitulation because you didn’t WIN at New York to where you own a million dollar brownstone that now costs 4 million or whatever. But it also feels like breaking up with everyone you’ve ever loved all at the same time. It feels like you’re going on the spaceship to colonize another planet or something. It feels completely fucked up and scary and incorrect to leave this place. and some of us just gotta workshop that shit plus, also, it’s this THING to where if you don’t win; you age out. I wanted a car and a house and a washer and dryer. and it’s #basic as fuck to want those things but I got too old to care about how it seems. I have made a huge mistake. Probably.

Balk: Okay, I can see that. I can even MAYBE A LITTLE SOMETIMES (but particularly after this winter, which was brutal) think that possibly New York might not be the best place to grow old and die in. At one point during this HORRIBLE winter I was talking to a friend who was trying to decide whether she should stay here or go to California and I was like, “You know what? If you’re not FROM HERE there’s no reason you have to stay here.” Like, for me, I don’t think there is any other choice, if I’m being realistic. What am I gonna do in America, say “hi” to my neighbors? Drive around with a smile on my face and wait for the good movies to come to me three months after they get released? Go eat at Chili’s? Let someone finish their sentence? I’m stuck. But people like you and my friend, who did not grow up knowing that this is the pinnacle of civilization, have options. Still, LOS ANGELES? I cannot even comprehend. We’re not kids anymore, isn’t it a little late in life to have to learn, like, when to avoid Wilshire Blvd, or what the different degrees of plasticity mean, or a whole new language of how people are actually saying “fuck you”?

MHKC: Here’s the LA hack: my friend calls it “rehab.” You’re living your life as an avatar. I keep calling it purgatory or a fugue state because NOTHING YOU DO THERE MATTERS. Nobody gives a single solitary shit about you. Do you know what it feels like to live your life NOT conjuring clever observational little things to say?”

Escape Artist Tells All

©2011 Kateoplis