Coney Island and the High Line are both places of amusement, culture, and society but they reflect these ideas in diverse ways. Over the past two weeks, I visited each of these sites and came to the unfortunate realization that even though I had lived here all my life, I had never taken the time to truly appreciate the arts of New York City. These visits opened my eyes and gave me the opportunity to take notice of the beauties of this ever growing and developing city.
“When you approach the High Line…what you first see is the kind of thing urban parks were created to get away from” (Goldberger). Urban parks are intended to allow their visitors to enjoy a delightful landscaped area and to unwind in its nature. However, as I stood on 10th Avenue and 14th street staring at the High Line from below, it seemed to do nothing of this sort. I knew that the High Line was a beautifully designed, 25-foot high park, but all I saw was an unwelcoming, heavy, steel structure. However, as I went up the stairs and laid my eyes on the remarkable nature for the first time, I now understood what the High Line was actually about. On that evening, I walked from 14th street to 30th street, taking in the colorful flowers that were visible due to bright lights placed along them, the stream of water, the benches that rose from the floor, the berries, the plants climbing up the fences, and the lights of the city both below and above me. With all the splendor of the High Line surrounding me, I couldn’t believe that people had once wished to demolish it. Thankfully, instead of paving over the High Line, it was incorporated into a place that removes you from the normal city atmosphere but at the same time is uniquely urban.
I was now able to fully understand what Goldberger had meant when he had written that, “Walking on the High Line is unlike any other experience in New York. You float about 25 feet above the ground, at once connected to street life and far away from it.” Although you’re able to see the street life, when you’re on the High Line you’re not apart of it anymore. New York City is known for its hustle-and-bustle, always moving quickly personality. However, the High Line is slower moving and serene. Couples are holding hands walking leisurely down the path and people are sitting on the benches reading books and relaxing amongst all this nature surrounding them. You no longer have to worry about being trampled over by a crowd of people walking towards you or getting lost in a never-ending metropolis. It’s as if you had entered a part of New York City that is ideal and unrealistic.
A piece of artwork that grabbed my attention was “Still Life with Landscape” by Sarah Sze. This steel structure acts as an observatory for birds, butterflies and insects by containing feeding spots and birdbaths. I found this compelling because similar to the High Line, this structure has a steel foundation that holds up a piece of nature. It amplifies the goal of the High Line to encourage people to take a break from the fast pace of the city and to instead, internalize the beauty surrounding them.
Whereas the High Line represented the serene side of recreation and culture, Coney Island on the other hand was more “out there.” With all of its amusement rides, lights, and attractions, it gave more of a “look at me” attitude that I hadn’t felt at the High Line. However, within itself, Coney Island has a contrast. On one hand, it’s a fast moving, exciting place where you could have a fun filled day with your family but on the other hand, it allows you to peacefully reflect on your life while gazing at the waves and seagulls flying by. I especially enjoyed the pier because it gave me an opportunity to get close to the ocean without having to go through the sand, which I am not particularly a fan of. As I walked on the Boardwalk, I noticed that many of the trashcans had been painted. They had drawings and names of random people on them; these paintings reminded me of the drawings I made as a child that my parents would hang up on the refrigerator. They made me feel more at home even though I was miles away.
In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas talks about electricity and how “the introduction of electricity makes it possible to create a second daytime” (35). Throughout my life, my favorite part about Coney Island has always been being able to see the rides lit up during the evenings. It gives Coney Island a whole new feeling and the contrast between the darkness and the lights fully isolates each ride from everything surrounding it. Although there is a lot of congestion, which Koolhaas discusses, the lights allow you to see each attraction individually. I found both of these sites very enjoyable and I’m looking forward to going again sometime.
Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.
Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994. Print.
New York City is the home to many of the most architectural and innovative spectacles in the world, which includes Coney Island and the High Line. These places have much to offer both tourists and locals in terms of leisure and pleasure. Coney Island, a historical mainstay in Brooklyn, is arguably the pinnacle of diversity. Along Brighton Beach Avenue alone, one can find Asian nail salons to Russian café’s to Subways (the American sub franchise) and so much more. While it has rapidly developed, with the addition of fields, stages, parks, and residences; it hasn’t actually changed. A former freight train track, the High Line is a relatively new, up-and-coming recreational project that has physically endured the demolition efforts of corporate overhauls, thanks to the Friends of the High Line. The modern environment, accentuated by the elevated “forest”, lulls all who visit into a state of sweet serenity.
As the epitomy of Brooklyn, Coney Island does not have to fit into the surrounding area, it is the neighborhood. Rem Koolhaas noted in his book, “The strategies and mechanisms that later shape Manhattan are tested in the laboratory of Coney Island before they finally leap toward the larger island. Coney Island is a fetal Manhattan.” (Koolhaas, 1994, page30) But is it? I can acknowledge that there may be some truth to Koolhaas’s statement. The array of varying feats that inhabit Coney Island may be the groundwork of proof that it was at some point a testing area. However, I have yet to see such an impressive region on the “parental island.”
Coney Island is all about the boardwalk, the beach, the shopping, the aquarium, the baseball, the concerts. It’s all about everything! There are few places in the America that can even remotely rival the accessibility and significance of it. The only reason why people can have an effect on it is because it has an effect on the people. No matter where you go, the beginnings of great ideas are being born. Strolling down the boardwalk, you can almost literally see artists putting newfound ideas onto their easels. It is actually quite interesting to watch.
I hate Manhattan. I really do. The hustle and bustle of too many things in too little space forces me to cringe before I even exit the subway. However, I was rather surprised by the High Line. Walking down 23rd street towards 10th avenue, the neighborhood boasts a rapid-paced vibe and a rude demeanor. There is nothing about it that would even hint at an approach to a recreational piece of art (highline), especially the big Texas BBQ chain and the multiple liquor stores. As I reached 8th avenue though, I began to see creativity-oriented venues, including the SVA theatre and art classes. The construction site directly below the tracks provides somewhat of the perfect contrast of concrete city to artificial paradise, in the sense that the 45 feet (approximately) of elevation transcends you into a completely contradictory surrounding and feeling.
With respect to the immediate area surrounding the High Line, there are reminders of a desolate past and foreshadows of a prosperous future. The graffiti that lines many of the brick buildings parallel to it serve as a symbol of what it would be today if it hadn’t been saved, which is an abandoned waste of space. On the contrary, the recently constructed modernistic buildings that appear along the path enable us to envision the promise it has for the area in the near future. In a nutshell, I can’t say that it truly fits in with the scenery of the neighborhood as a whole, but it is something that is needed, and will serve as a guide for the beautification, both aesthetically and culturally, of the area.
Personally, I have already seen it affect the people of Manhattan. Just on my walk to the High Line, I observed four people litter. After all, that’s a stereotypical action of the busy New Yorker. The High Line, though, must be considered a sacred ground in Manhattan because there is not one spot of gum or article of garbage anywhere along the path. The sheer respect and appreciation that Manhattan society has for the novelty of the High Line is actually quite inspiring.
The High Line is more of a test ground that Coney Island is. Furthermore, they are similar in the sense that everything transportation falls to the background so that their other features can shine.
They differ in the magnitude of what they offer. While the path of the High Line offers a place for people to enjoy quiet and fresh air, Coney Island’s boardwalk also offers the option to be loud and obnoxious without the ridicule. Also, Coney has the capability to satisfy pretty much any mood while the High Line’s tone is purely tranquil.
This weekend I visited Coney Island and the High Line. I have been to Coney Island about four times in my life, mostly when I was little, so there isn’t much I remember.I had never even heard of the High Line until this September. So it can be said that this post is written from the perspective of a first-timer.
Here are some things I learned and noticed on my visits to these sites.
The High Line and Coney Island attract tremendous amounts of people including tourists, couples, and families. The High Line is a park converted from an abandoned railroad track. The neighborhood that it’s housed in still reflects its history with graffiti on buildings, litter on the sidewalks, parking lots, and junkyards in the area.
The High line has become an escape and a place for relaxation for the neighborhood. It provides a break from the tight streets and fast-paced life of Manhattan while still allowing people to be close to home. While on the High Line one is “connected to street life and far away from it” (Goldberger). Walking on the High Line was a very strange feeling. I felt like I was floating in the middle of buildings, suspended in midair. I had a feeling of looking down from a window of a skyscraper but still being surrounded by plants. As I walked around, the most obvious thing to me was the great number of tourists present. It was harder to hear English than any other language, enhancing the feeling of eccentricity that the High Line gives off.
The High Line combines the modern with the natural to create a unique experience. As you walk along the High Line, the old tracks are visible under the various plants, reminding you of the High Line’s past. There are some areas that make it apparent that the plants were physically planted there and some other places where plants are allowed to grow high and in every direction. This gives the feel of the abandoned railroad that the High Line originally was.
Some parts of the High Line are styled like the modern architecture that is visible in the skyline. The benches grow out of the ground, the elevators have clear walls, and the fountains recite famous quotes.
This architectural genius attracts thousands of people every day to the High Line.
Coney Island houses Luna Park and an aquarium besides the ocean. Both of these attract families and tourists because they are cheap and are able to provide instant entertainment. As Koolhaas explains in his book, Coney Island is technology combined with cardboard to make reality (42). Even though there is trash on the floor, the paint is peeling, and some places look like they will fall apart anytime (Cyclone), people keep coming. It has been designed to look like “ a magic city” (Koolhaas 42). The thrill of the experience is too good to lose.
One of the ways stores in Coney Island attract people is with the use of color. Everywhere you walk, there are bright colors on advertisements, signs, and rides. By using bright colors, weird pictures, and lights in their advertisements, stores draw people’s attention. On a side note, sometimes the mismatch of bright colors may bring a headache to the onlooker, but then again as a New Yorker multiple things squeezed into one place is a common sight.
When I got off the train stop for Coney Island, the first thing that attracted my attention was the number of colorful murals that lined the walls . They depicted things like sea creatures, clowns, and the ocean.
As I walked along the boardwalk, one thing I noticed were the various colorful flags and lights on top of all the restaurants and rides, a common characteristic of the neighborhood. People were riding their bicycles, flying kites, and fishing. What I found interesting were the colorful cans that line the boardwalk. They depicted scenes that had to do with the ocean and the amusement park. The cans and the murals are one of the ways of expression for the residents of the community, whose lives revolve around Coney Island.
Both Coney Island and the High Line have their individual characteristics that set them apart from other places of recreation in New York City. The High Line, because it’s a park above ground and Coney Island because it’s probably the only amusement park in the city next to the ocean. These places exhibit the essence of New York as seen through their backgrounds and artistic expressions. Places like these can never be found or duplicated anywhere else except New York.
Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.
Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994. Print.
Welcome to the High Line Portal.
What is your destination today?
Would you like to see the floral?
The weather is nice and bright.
Relax and rest your neck
But we must get going, alright?
Or is it a motion picture screen?
Sit down, there’s plenty of seats,
And enjoy the busy city scene!
Down the path, pass the grassland,
Follow the people, that’s the flow.
Don’t get lost. Grab my hand!
Would you like to read a book?
Or take a nap until dawn?
Wait, over there! Take a look!
All grown over the tracks.
There’s nothing more to see,
Would you like to buy a snack?
It’s time to say goodbye.
Hope you enjoyed the design,
A park floating in the sky.
The 14th street entrance was in sight. Upon viewing the lackluster, metal staircase I lowered my expectations of what would greet me at the landing. In retrospect, I realize that this design aimed to resemble a staircase found at functioning above-ground train stations. This misleading staircase did not prepare me for the beautiful greens, yellows, and browns of the grasses, flowers, and trees. The High Line Park had merged innovative architectural scheming with varying natural features. However, within minutes of traversing the wooden floors amidst my fellow New Yorkers, I came to another realization: this was no park. The space was far too narrow. I found my sentiments in accordance with photographer Joel Sternfeld’s view that the High Line is “more of a path than a park” (Gopnik).
Newfound awareness of limited resources, both natural and monetary, have inspired New Yorkers, and Americans in general, to adopt principles of efficient reusing and recycling. This ideology directly manifests itself in the High Line. With the rails, of a path long abandoned, ingrained in the floors of the park, the depth of the innovative transformation is particularly noticeable. Rather than demolish and rebuild, the railway was revitalized. Furthermore, the urban renewal allows an eyesore of the past to mesh well with the surrounding neighborhood.
Still though, there is something unsettling about the Frankenstein-like rebirth. Once again, Sternfeld’s words echoed in my mind: “I just pray that, if they save the High Line, they’ll save some of the virgin parts, so that people can have this hallucinatory experience of nature in the city” (Gopnik). The high line was saved, indeed, but the hallucinatory experience is absent. The artificiality of the flora became painfully obvious when I witnessed work being done on a certain section of the park. The illusion was broken further through a reminder of the commercial nature of New York City. A mass of people surrounded a large coffee cart, with a gelato cart adjacent to it. A painter attempted to sell her wares a few steps down. This is one attribute of the city that remains timeless.
This commercial nature is even more apparent in Coney Island. Home to restaurants, nightclubs, bars, amusement park rides, and an aquarium, Coney Island offers distinct forms of pleasure. Each comes with a different price tag as well. In times of excess, the magnitude of choices often reflects the surplus. Coney Island seems to have been built on this principle. In a time when Coney Island’s fantastical creations produced much greater revenue, entrepreneurs allowed their imaginations to run wild.
Coney Island was not an escape from the urban confines to a natural setting. Instead, it was an escape to the fantasies of men and women everywhere. For this reason there was little consideration in the surrounding environment, natural or residential. The attractions of Coney Island are disharmonious with its surroundings. In fact, these motley attractions are disharmonious with each other. My walk along the boardwalk, away from the auditory and visual distractions, offered me the most serene pleasure. I could not help but wonder if Coney Island would have been a better place, had the majority of funds been invested in excellent maintenance of the beach.
The hustle and bustle of the city can place a great amount of stress on its residents. Throughout the years, the search for escape in New York City has been as common an endeavor as the search for the dollar. Although Coney Island and the High Line Park seem to take vastly different approaches to finding this escape, the synthetic environments of both left me jaded. A true escape can only be made within pure Mother Nature.
Gopnik, Adam. “A Walk on the High Line.” The New Yorker May 21, 2001: 44-49. Print.
Told me not to tell anyone.
Secret amongst the few,
it should remain.
But how could I not share?
of green and rust,
at the tip of my tongue.
Spit them out with vigor.
How could I divine?
Induced by the masses,
clean and corrupt.
Now I must believe.
Happiness is genuine.
The secrets out.
New York City is like the people who live in it-diverse with many different stories and personalities. Each individual place reflects the people who built it, whether a hundred or five years ago, and the people who frequent it daily. Coney Island and High Line are two such sites that display their unique characters to their visitors. After walking around for only a few minutes I was able to detect an atmosphere in each of these sites created by the collective mood of the people there.
Coney Island was unlike any neighborhood I had visited before. Because it was a chilly and windy day there weren’t as many people on the streets and boardwalk as there are on a hot summer day but it was still bubbling with life. The feeling I got while walking around Coney Island was the ghost of what was once a glorious amusement park. The remainders of that time stand tall and proud, trying to remind us of what they once were.
Along the boardwalk I felt a shared serenity amongst the people walking, sitting, standing and selling. No matter what troubles they may have and how diverse they are from each other, they are all connected by Coney Island. Like the kites flying nearby, these people are all doing their own thing, yet somehow doing it unison.
My adventures at High Line were quite different than the ones I had at Coney Island. When I finally found the park all I could do was stare in wonder at this Shangri-La above New York City. From down below it appears to be just a walkway, with only gates, people, and a few trees visible. However, the truth is much more striking. As Goldberger says in “Miracle Above Manhattan”, “walking on the High Line is unlike any other experience in New York. You float about 25 feet above the ground, at once connected to street life and far away from it.”
The High Line is an oasis in the desert that is the bustling industrialization of our city. High Line is the product of the post-industrial age, of a people wanting to experience the city without its constant changes and upgrades. It reminds me of post-apocalyptic science fiction novels, where the destruction of the world is blamed on our generation for our relentless drilling of oil and use of electricity. The new civilizations created in these novels have everything that we have, just greener and with a better appreciation of nature and the world as a whole. This thought came about especially from the rails visible through the bushes. In one place in particular, there was a single tree growing, exemplifying the idea of High Line as a rebirth of nature. High Line is a product of a generation who strives to cure the environment of the diseases we gave it and allow it to blossom in a way that we never allowed it to.
The plants and shrubbery at High Line were, to put it bluntly, not particularly gorgeous, and in any other place would be called weeds. However, it was their rawness that gave them charm in my eyes. Had there been beautiful roses and orchids growing there, all it would be is a garden. Because the plants were clearly left to their own devices, we can see true nature, untouched by humans (mostly), the way it is supposed to grow.
Both Coney Island and High Line are places of relaxation and enjoyment, though in very dissimilar ways. Coney Island gives the visitor something to do, while High Line gives the visitor the opportunity not to do. A contrast between Coney Island and High Line was the sensation of culture that grew over time in Coney Island versus the culture that is yet to come in High Line. While walking through High Line I felt as if it had more to give but needed time to prepare it. Coney Island has been around for decades and is confident in its culture and diversity. What particularly represented this concept at Coney Island were the painted trashcans along the boardwalk.
Another difference between Coney Island and High Line that struck me right away was the values of the times that they were created and how that reflected on each of the sites. Coney Island started becoming popular as machines were getting more complicated and accessible and the attractions built there incorporated the public’s yearning for technology into the pleasurable activities they marketed. The attraction and idea of High Line was the opposite, of throwing off the shackles of the modern and post-industrial age we locked ourselves in. The two sites are converses when it comes to the purposes of the people who created them but are alike in how they are products of their times. Both sites continue to pass along the messages of their creators and their eras, and allow them to live on through future generations.
Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.
Late night walks on the sand
Luna park, a ball of light
The fireworks behind the bands
It is a Coney summer night
Children playing in the sand
The man flying his kite
It is their Dream land
A place where ideas of fun unite
A abode of relaxation for the city
An escape from the hectic and busy
A place fresh and full of possibility
Where life becomes simple and easy
A place so treasured and close
This is Coney Island
A place that every New Yorker knows
This is Coney Island
August 23rd was the day. The day I finally had the courage to do it. My name is Dennis Karishnakov and I am 12 years old. I live in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, at 1401 Surf Avenue, Apartment 4A with my grandmother, parents, sister and brother. I go to school at IS 139 where I am in Mrs. Lewis’s homeroom. In my free time I play the violin and do my homework. My whole world was Coney Island and that day, August 23rd, is when it all changed.
It started like every other Sunday in the Karishnakov house did. Everyone gathered around the table for the weekly family breakfast of soft boiled eggs, toast and tea. While everyone else was enjoying the feast, I could barely touch my food, I was too excited. “Nu, Dennis is there something bothering you? You barely touched your eggs” my father asked. “No,” I said, “I am fine, just not hungry this morning”. Breakfast finally ended and not a second too soon. After breakfast everyone retreated into their corners of their house. Grandma went to her room to watch the latest Russian soap opera, mom and dad to the porch to smoke their cigarettes, my sister and brother to their rooms to do their homework and play their respective instruments. I knew this was the time, so I put a couple of dollars that I’ve been saving for this trip in my pocket, quietly slipped out the front door, and started walking towards the boardwalk.
When I finally got to the boardwalk, there was an all out attack on my senses. I could smell the corndogs being fried, I saw all the flashing lights of Astro-Land Luna Park, I heard all the carnies asking me to play their games of chance, I could feel and taste the saltiness of the sea water. I never felt this alive in my life. With the various distractions going on around me I knew I couldn’t stop, I was here for a reason. I was motivated to get where I needed to go. Finally, I found what I was looking for, the ticket booth to the one and only Wonder Wheel.
I took my place on line and waited, every few minutes taking a few steps towards my future. I finally was next, “How old are you, son?” the booth operater asked. “12” I answered. “Your too young, next.” I couldn’t help myself, I just started to cry, all my dreams, all the planning were just gone. “Aw, cmon kid, alright alright I’ll let you on, just stop crying, you’re driving away the rest of the customers.” Just like that I felt alive again, I was going to do it.
I sat on the wonderfully uncomfortable metal bench, waiting for the ride to start. Suddenly I felt the first jolt of the ride, as I was slowly rising, the world I’ve never seen, came into my view. There was a fabulous looking park I’ve never even been to right past my apartment building. I could see bridges way out in the distance. I could see Manhattan and all of its tall buildings and I thought of how great it must be to live on the top floor and see the all of the world beneath you. I could see out on the ocean for miles, and suddenly I wanted to sail the world. How much more was out there, I wondered. I now knew there was more to the world than just Brighton Beach and I needed to get out and see it all.
That day changed my life. I always heard about the world and all the wonderful countries in school, but seeing them was always and unobtainable fantasy. After riding the wonder wheel, after seeing past my small neighborhood and out into the world, I knew that while I may not see everything in the world, I would do my best to see as much of it as I could.
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