When word broke around 1pm this afternoon that Phase 2 of The High Line had miraculously opened to the public a day earlier than had been announced, we high-tailed it straight over there to walk the new ten-block stretch with our fellow cityfolk and German tourists. The voyage took us straight north, from the stairway at 20th Street to the stairway down at 30th Street. This is what we saw, presented in chronological order over the course of 22 photographs.
20th Street: Up the staircase from 20th Street, the tension builds, the heart races. It's kind of hot, actually. Atop the platform, to the right, where once stood a shoddy chain-link fence, stands nothing. Crossing the mystical divide into phase two, a divide denoted now only by the slight discoloration of the older cement.
21st Street: Air tastes of jasper, wine, and sugar. Ahead, some sort of freaky modern art. Modern art that is, upon closer inspection, a giant byzantine birdfeeder. Herebouts, we find Curbed director of technology Eliot Shepard, who has just strolled Phase 2 from North to South. He becomes the first to warn of us of the monster at the end of the book: "Wait until you see the thing AOL's put up at 30th Street." Slightly afeared; venturing on.
22nd Street: Here, one gets the first strong impression of the more closed-in nature of Phase 2 of the High Line. As the thicket rises, so do the walls of the buildings hugging the trestle. We're further put on guard by the fact that each person strolling past us is enjoying a popsicle.
23rd Street: Aha! Source of popsicles discovered. "That one's going to have a little bit of heat to it," the vendor tells a patron, uttering a line that probably hasn't been applied to popsicles very often through history. We wait in the line, six or so people deep, in order to procure our own.
And emerge, after the exchange of $3, with a cucumber-limesicle. "It's our most popular flavor today," the vendor says. He seems like a pretty nice guy.
Just past the popsicle stand lie the grand stairs and lawn of 23rd Street. People have already started doing what people do in places like this, which is to enjoy artesianal popsicles and consult mobile devices.
Further down the great lawn, which is unfortunately lined with scaffolding from a building project next door on one side, we find the glory that is HL23. Man, you sure can see in those windows. Poor HL23. And poor HL23 resident who's wifi this dude is almost certainly jacking.
We're stepping down off the great lawn when lo! Look there! It's Friends of the High Line cofounder Robert Hammond, sans hard hat. We engage him in conversation. He gestures to the pristine, nearly empty lawn. "Looks like people haven't really figured out that you're allowed to go on it," he says, actually rubbing the lustrous grass with his hand. "It will probably never look this nice again." As soon as he departs, as if on cue, two large bearded men climb onto the lawn and roll around on the grass, bringing to mind writer Mark Lamster's observation: "Is this really a park, or are you just human lawn art for residents of hl23?"
It will, in fact, never look this nice again.
24th Street: Hammond, by the way, became the second person to warn us that our minds would soon be blown by the AOL installation at 30th Street. With that in mind, we swing past HL23 (and a staircase up from the street that apparently offers another mind-bending angle on Neil Denari's metallic creation) and onto the wider, open plains of 24th Street, where rises another metallic creation—245 Tenth.
The verdant wildflowers of the 24th Street stretch, besmirched only by a gaudy advertisement for 245 Tenth. We aimed our iPhone at its futuristic barcode and it exploded. Onward.
25th Street: The woodland flyover! The storied, mythical, apocryphal woodland flyover! We start walking up it. It's kind of like walking up a ramp. A long, slow, slightly inclined ramp.
The storied, mythical cul-de-sac that is the Falcone Flyover! Nice benches.
Wandering amidst the flyover, we've overcome with the first pangs of disappointment we've felt on this impressionistic walking tour. Thing is, it's just not that high in the air. The flyover never really flies.
Away, foul thoughts! The cutout benches are nifty, after all, and everyone seems to be having a pretty good time. "Awesome!" a small tyke offers, apropos of nothing, and everything.
26th Street: Down ramp and off the flyover and into another field of wildflowers. The wind is breezing up and it's just a goddamn beautiful day and there's really no one here and it's easy to start waxing poetic and getting lost in a dream and we're looking down West 27th Street, paying our respects to the dear departed Bungalow 8 and the spirit of Amy Sacco...
When this crazed kid photobombs us, snaps our reverie, and obscures the group coming up behind—a coterie of real estate VIPs comprised of Team Streeteasy and former Curbed editor Joey Arak. Ahoy, friends! We greet one another with the vigor of youth on Christmas morning. Niceties about the niceties of Phase 2 are exchanged. And Arak decides to join our stroll north.
29th Street: The High Line begins to bend, and we're walking and talking to Arak, who mentions that these benches "might be my favorite part," and we're liking them too, and then our eyes spot something off to the right over there...
And holy what the motherofhell is that. To the far railing to espy it more closely. Two blondes, to our immediate left, offer running commentary. First: "What is this thing?" Second: "It's creepy!"
Indeed it is. For we have at last found Rainbow City, presented by AOL. It's weird. And creepy. And a jarring end to a pleasant stroll.
30th Street: And how does phase 2 of the High Line end? With another chain-link fence, and a dude stretching. (We're reliably informed that the High Line curators are hoping to win access to a small portion of the High Line that encircles the railyard, to add a turn-around of sorts that's lacking now. Until then, expect people to pile up here, wondering where to go next.)
30th Street, streetlevel: The stairway down winds us astride Tommy Colicchio's pop-up parking-lot biergarten and then eye-to-eye with AOL's grand wonder, which, according to a chipper High Line volunteer at the base of the stairs, opens tomorrow.