By Kyra Baffo

What happens when you revive an abandoned railroad line spanning across the city into a beautifully crafted urban park? I’m sure you can guess. New York City’s highline park showcases the unique designs of modern urban architecture and ecological revival. The highline spans 1.45 miles, beginning in the Lower West side and extending through 34th street, with a number of entrances you can choose from (we walked from campus to Washington st.). The route is designed to make visitors feel immersed in the city, offering 360 views of iconic NYC buildings and the Hudson river. The park is covered in beautiful plants and greenery, features art work from local vendors and food (which includes homemade papaya popsicles (yum!), asian buns, hotdogs, and ice cream), performances, and benches if you just want to sit and embrace the city.

My friends and I enjoyed the stroll, often stopping to enjoy the creative art on display or take a guess at what part of the city we were in.  The Highline, in manys ways, is so much more than a city park. It is a community center, public space, ecological haven, and revived industrial good. The Railroad was originally built in the early 1900s in response to the high death rates of pedestrians getting hit by trains on street level tracks. However, by the 1970s the rise in trucking led to a decline in usage. There were immediate calls for the railroads demolition, but thanks to advocates and conversancy groups, the high line was preserved and transformed into one of the largest attractions in the city.

In a highly condensed place like New York, finding lively, yet calming public spaces is a rarity. But the city does a great job of utilizing the space it does have to foster community engagement and creativity. The same could be said for Washington Square Park, the “quad” for NYU students who lack a centralized campus. The park, like the Highline, has a life of its own and offers visitors a unique space within the hustle and bustle of the city to relax or explore the creative artistic scenery. Musicians regularly perform; vendors sell food and anti Trump merchandise; others take a dive in the fountain in the center of the park.

Somehow students manage to get studying done there. Through its chaos and open platform, the park turns into a city of its own, and somehow transforms into a ‘safe space’ where you can literally do anything and no one would look twice. Both parks are must-dos for anyone who finds themselves in this sprawling city. And luckily enough, we had Washington Square Park right at a door steps. The Highline radiates NYC history and don’t worry, if you find yourself there on an extremely hot summer day, you will enjoy the abundance of mistifiers and sprinklers that strategically dispersed through the railway. Although New York City’s hyper urbanized landscape can make virtually anyone feel overwhelmed, hidden (or mile-wide) gems in the city surely make up for it.

Kyra studied abroad in New York in Summer 2019.