In the 20 years that I have lived in the Washington, DC area, I have been to New York City countless times. On my most recent visit, it hit me that I have rarely seen the same thing twice. There are so many different neighborhoods and attractions. And my trips are usually only a few days at most, so I don’t have the experience of seeing “everything” in a city on a week long trip, the way I do when I travel further abroad.
After returning home from this last visit, I realized that there had been an unexpected theme to my trip: reinvention. I went to visit my aunt, who was about to retire and leave the city after living there for forty years. I wanted to spend time with her, but also to see some places I had heard a lot about. We started at The High Line, a pedestrian park built on an elevated track of railway that was no longer in use. I loved the concept of The High Line, and it was so cool to have a slightly elevated view of the city. I hope more cities incorporate this idea of recycling areas that have fallen out of use.
The High Line led us to the Whitney Museum. The creation of the High Line spurred the development of the Chelsea area, including the relocation this spring of the Whitney Museum from an uptown location to its newer, bigger venue. My aunt was surprised at much the area had changed. She said that when she first moved to New York, Chelsea was a place to avoid. And now it couldn’t have felt more charming, full of tourists and locals alike.
To be honest, I am not a big museum person. I like to be outside when I travel, preferably at a cafe people-watching. But I loved the Whitney. The collection focuses on American art from the mid-twentieth to early twenty-first century, and reflects the cultural and political movements in American society during this time.
After the Whitney, we went to Chelsea Market. The market is in a former Nabisco factory, and is full of vendors selling everything from baked goods to specialty foods to groceries to kitchenware to artwork. As I strolled through, I found myself both hungry for everything and fascinated with how the market must have looked when it was a functioning factory, and what it must have felt like to work in the factory almost one hundred years ago. Again, I thought it was a great way to revitalize an unused space.
Where I live, there is a lot of knocking down old buildings and putting up new ones. I know this happens in New York, too. But as nice and shiny as new can be, I found greater beauty in the recycled structures. They carry the history and spirit of people who were there before. As my aunt prepares to say goodbye to the city after many decades, my young cousin says hello as she now establishes herself there. The cycle of reinvention continues.