I can’t even count the times I’ve been to New York City—it’s one of those cites you return to again and again, and you still see something new each and every time. Visiting this past weekend was no different. I was expecting typical autumn weather—grey skies, wet sidewalks and trees—but rather, the sun was still shining, the weather was warm and the trees were still alive with a million hues of orange. Taking advantage of the sunny day, I made my way to what’s become one of the city’s most popular (and newest!) tourist attractions: the High Line.
The High Line is a public park in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. It’s built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The railway has been closed for decades and some astute locals thought to turn it into a public park, leaving the train tracks in place. What you get, then, is a beautiful elevated park snaking its way between skyscrapers with flowers, plants and public art dotting the way.
One thing I learned while visiting the High Line this November was its’ unique place in NYC’s gay history. While walking through the park, a vendor was selling a photo book called High Line Nudes—naturally the naked man on the cover caught my attention. Because the High Line runs through the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen—NYC’s popular gay neighborhoods—the area has long been a part of the city’s LGBTQ culture. As it turns out, the train tracks that once laid abandoned for decades was once a popular gay cruising spot—a place for gay men to meet and hook up.
Related: Win a budget backpacker holiday to NYC! Contest ends December 5, 2016.
Gentrification has changed that, and the urban development of the High Line into a tepid, picturesque park is special, but it’s also important to remember what has been lost—another (relatively safe) queer space in a city. Maybe it’s not so much of an issue because it’s New York City, but as our gay world changes from old to new, it’s important to remember our gay history. And Kevin McDermott’s tasteful photographic book of High Line Nudes does just that—a visual reminder of the gay history from Chelsea in today’s setting.
Photographer Kevin McDermott shot this series of male nudes in 2006, as the development of the High Line park was just beginning. View some below and make sure to check out the beautifully crafted book on Amazon, the publisher’s website, or one of the vendors selling books and other souvenirs located directly on the High Line.
Regardless of the High Line’s gay history, today it’s a beautiful public park. In a city where open spaces seem rare and hard to find, the High Line is a breath of fresh air—even more so because of the art and sustainability projects that make the space an ever-changing destination.
The High Line is one of NYC’s best tourist things to do—not just because it’s free, but because it offers a unique perspective on the city. And its’ brief part in gay history only adds to the special allure of the place. It’s easy to visit and with frequent on-off points (and elevators), it’s accessible from a handful of different access points. Just make sure you note the opening times as it closes around sunset. And, if you’re not in NYC and you can’t visit, escape with a bit of sexy wanderlust with McDermott’s photographs from High Line Nudes.