New York City has more than 8 million people, a lot of traffic and plenty to do. One of the city's newest hot spots isn't a club or trendy hotel, but a nine-block stretch full of wildflowers and views of the Hudson River.
For years, New Yorkers have walked under an old bridge at the corner of Washington and Gasenvoort Streets in the meat packing district on Manhattan's West Side assuming there was just an abandoned rail line on top. They were wrong. That's because in the past decade, workers have transformed it into the High Line Park. Since it opened in 2009, more than 2 million people have visited.
"It takes a lot to impress me. This did right out of the gate," said New York City resident Orlando Carreras.
Resident Jennifer Lotito agreed. "It's things like this that make it why I love living in the city," she said.
NYC Park Serves As Model For Atlanta Beltline
The High Line Park is constructed on old elevated rail lines built in the 1920s. The trains stopped running in the 1980s and the rails were abandoned -- until now.
"One of the great charms of the High Line is because it served buildings on both sides, it tends to run in the middle of blocks. You almost have a dollhouse view of New York," said Patrick Cullina of Friends of the Beltline.
Friends of the Beltline is the conservancy group that runs the park for New York City. "Some people don't realize how close we are to the Hudson River or the New Jersey waterfront, the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island," said Cullina.
The idea of using old, abandoned rail lines is the same concept being used for the Atlanta Beltline project. In fact, the firm hired to help design the Beltline designed the High Line Park. High Line Park employees even traveled to Atlanta to share ideas.
"It's an incredibly exciting and ambitious program," said Cullina. "It's an incredible opportunity to galvanize all of those neighborhoods in a single connective artery. And in a city as sprawling as Atlanta is, to have a loop that sort of captures that all together that people can ride bikes on or walk on, I think really strengthens community."
The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile transit loop around the city that will create and connect neighborhoods, parks, stores and restaurants. It is a much larger project than the High Line, and will feature several parks. There also is another major difference.
"Imagine the High Line now with transit as well," said Atlanta Beltline CEO Brian Leary. "And imagine the High Line opening up for transit and parks. Big parks and ball fields. Ones that are on the ground that you don't have to go up or down to. One that you can just walk across the street or out your back yard."
Still, Beltline organizers said their concept is the same as the High Line's. They want to create parks with special touches that will bring residents and tourists together.
"People from all over the city and all over the world come here to spend time together," said Cullina. "(They) walk from dinner to drinks, or from home to school, and it is a tremendously exciting community experience."
Work is under way to expand the High Line. The High Line currently covers nine blocks in the city. By 2011, it will cover 19 blocks. Cullina said there is also a third section they hope to buy and redevelop.
"It's one one-hundredth of what the city has to offer," said Leigh Jedeikin, who was visiting New York from Texas. "But it's beautiful. It's very nice."