Destination 2018: New York

Until relatively recently, it was entirely possible to live in Manhattan, hemmed in between, say, 10th Avenue on the West Side and York on the East, and forget that you resided on an island. The West Side Highway and FDR Drive both pushed Manhattan residents away from the Hudson and East rivers—and most New Yorkers rarely headed to the island’s southern and northern ends.

It wasn’t always so. New York’s waterfront had once been alive with shipping, cruise lines and industry; in the early 20th century New York Harbor employed some 40,000 longshoremen. In the post-World War II years, those docks became a bastion of organized crime, and over the decades the shipping and industry migrated elsewhere—mostly, to New Jersey. Particularly on the West Side of Manhattan, the waterfront devolved into a mass of abandoned piers, rusting railroad tracks and desolate warehouses.

The industrial waterfront “has largely receded from the city’s consciousness,” a New York Times writer observed in 2017. Today, that gritty industrial milieu has given way to a more modern New York vibe. The city’s new waterfront is alive with sparkling waterfront parks, bike and running trails in near-constant use and ferry boats sashaying across New York Harbor, up the West Side and along the East River. The result is more opportunities for residential life, recreation and commerce—plus a jolt of new energy for a city that thrives on perpetual reinvention.

On the West Side, the High Line, a wildflower-infused walkway that had been an abandoned elevated railroad track, is now one of the city’s most popular attractions. During the 1990s, then-mayor Rudy Giuliani wanted to tear it down; community activists succeeded in preserving the railway. Opened to the public in 2009, the High Line now runs 1.45 miles north from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street near Penn Station. More than 20 million people had taken a stroll on it by 2014, taking in the sun, fellow pedestrians, impromptu art exhibits, the glorious Hudson River Park and the surrounding cityscape. The path also offers a sweeping vantage point from which to watch construction progress on the most ambitious private development project in the United States: the 28-acre Hudson Yards.

When the project is completed, 125,000 people will either shop, work or live at Hudson Yards every day.

“It’s going to create a new heart of New York,” predicts Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, which is in charge of the project from developers Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group. “It’s the ultimate live, work, play environment.” Developers aren’t known for understatement, but it’s true that Hudson Yards is going to have an enormous impact on a once-dreary part of the city. Project plans include dozens of restaurants and stores, along with a 750-seat public grade school, all surrounded by patches of green. A multi-arts center called the Shed is scheduled to open in spring 2019 under the artistic direction of performance art impresario Alex Poots. The Related Cos. estimates that in 2025, when the project is completed, 125,000 people will either shop, work or live at Hudson Yards every day. One of Hudson Yards’ biggest selling points is its access to the water and views of its namesake river. “We’re reclaiming our waterfront,” Cross says.

The southern tip of Manhattan was ravaged by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy. But now, this area too is experiencing a resurgence. One example: Along the East River, ferries travel from Brooklyn’s new Brooklyn Bridge Park to the revitalized Seaport District.

“We call it the Port of Discovery,” says David Weinreb, CEO of Howard Hughes, the developer transforming the Seaport. It’s a district that was New York’s first commercial hub when the Dutch West India Company founded an outpost there in 1625. Five historic shipping vessels are still docked at the South Street Seaport Museum. But the port activity went away, and in recent decades the Seaport was known mainly for its generic national chain stores and streets that visitors abandoned at night.

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