The Suitcase Lady


November 29, 2016, 10:09 pm

It takes a true visionary to look at an abandoned, weed-infested, rusty, garbage-strewn elevated train right of way and envision a lush public park in the sky.

A New Yorker, Joshua David, was that visionary. He lived on the west side of Manhattan in the shadow of the old tracks but saw its potential. Together with Robert Hammond and many converts to his improbable vision, the New York High Line has become a reality, hosting about 5 million visitors a year.

We were lucky enough to walk its 1.45 miles a few weeks ago, and the experience was exhilarating; a mix of stunning views, lush gardens of native plants and quirky art installations. It proves that great civic projects can still happen in America.

I had followed news accounts of the genesis and construction of the New York High Line, but it is not the first high line my husband and I walked on. A few months prior to visiting New York, my photographer cousin suggested we spend a day in Chicago. Being frequent visitors and fans of the Windy City, we immediately agreed. Then, much to my surprise, he asked if we wanted to walk their High Line. We did not know it existed.

Inspired by New York, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, known locally as the 606 (the prefix affixed to all Chicago zip codes) is 2.7 miles. That is twice as long as Manhattan’s and it was built at less than half the cost.

Chicago’s aerial green belt is part of a larger scheme to link six parks and public art sites by a system of ramps. Chicago makes “no small plans” and is the greenest urban area in America.

The 606 High Line links many diverse neighborhoods as well. And at one point on the trail, visitors can look down on a house in the Humboldt Park Neighborhood where L. Frank Baum penned the Wizard of Oz and its famous yellow brick road.

Bravo to all who find new paths where none previously existed.

Here is a quick tour of the New York High Line.

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