Of all the forbidden sites that were opened for public viewing last weekend in the 5th annual Open House New York program, the High Line was one of the crown trophies. It offered rare views of the city, sexy industrial details, and the mysterious allure of a wild grassy flying carpet that won't open until at least a year hence. Built during the same era (early 1930s) as the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and other Gotham landmarks, could this elevated former freight railway become a comparably iconic amenity?

2007_10_highline.jpgThe quickness with which the limited tour slots were snatched up recalled the frenzied competition among real estate developers such as André Balazs, Alf Naman, and Leviev Boymelgreen to whip up luxury dwellings along the future park. Tour guests had to present ID and sign a waiver before being allowed to pass through a chain-link fence on the westernmost stretch of 34th Street. While the tour covered only the upper spur of the High Line -- a U-shaped section that wraps around the Hudson Rail Yards from 30th to 34th Street -- it's the downtown portion (Gansevoort St to 20th St.) that will open to pedestrians next fall. That's the plan, anyway, according to Friends of the High Line, the non-profit group that has propelled this adaptive re-use project since 1999.

Said Katie Lorah, a spokeswoman for the group, "The portion of the High Line on which we were walking is in danger of being demolished, depending on how the planning process plays out at the West Side Rail Yards." On the other hand, Curbed speculates that the 30th Street Spur will be preserved for parkland based on a West Side condo developer's plan to invest $2M in an access bridge. But the tour guide also said that all access to the future park will be public.

Highline_2_rails2b.jpgThe design by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro seeks to preserve the High Line's rusty-nature aesthetic. Each section of rail, and perhaps even some warrior shrubs, have been meticulously catalogued and tagged for re-installation after the substructure is inspected and renovated. Picking our way along the overgrown rails and lonesome urban detritus, and absorbing a beating from the August-like heat and haze, we suddenly found the proper bookend for the Richard Serra summer.

Photos by Double Bunny on Flickr