I started my first full day in NYC by tagging along with the family I was staying with. We began by going for breakfast at a diner in the meatpacking district, a neighbourhood in Manhattan which unsurprisingly, got its name from the fact that by 1900 it was home to over 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants.
We then went to go see the Brown Building, which is now part of New York University. The reason this building is significant is because on March 25th 1911 it was the location of a fire that killed 146 people – the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York. The majority of the victims were immigrants of Jewish or Italian descent who were working as garment workers. Many were young women, with the youngest fatality recorded to be just 14 years old. One of the reasons the fire was so deadly was because the owners had locked the exits and stairs (apparently a common practice in those days). The fire resulted in legislation which required factory safety standards to be improved, and it also contributed to the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
Despite the sad history of the building it was interesting to go see it. I like to find out the history of places and I think that it’s important to remember tragedies like this so that we can understand where our progress stemmed from. Whilst a plaque is the only visual commemoration to the individuals who died, I would still recommend paying a visit to the building if you are in the area.
Anyway, on to happier things! The Brown building is just off Washington Square park, so I had a little wander around there. It was a nice area with some different views of the city and lots of places to sit in the sun or have a rest. There were tables for people to play chess (which in all honestly I had thought only happened in movies) and even areas specifically designated for dogs which, as a dog owner, I think is a really good idea.
From there, I decided to go to the High Line. This is a 1.45 mile stretch of abandoned railway, elevated 30ft off street level. The railway was used from 1934 – 1980, but was reopened to the public in 2009 as a strip of parkland within the city.
I’m personally really glad that I visited. I walked the length of the line and it was gorgeous. The quiet greenery is in sharp contrast to the busy streets below, and the skyscrapers above. There are walls of art and sculptures along the rails, and even an area where visitors can create their own fantasy city out of white lego bricks! There are numerous benches and seats to rest on, and lots of stalls selling refreshments, which means that it’s a great place to have lunch, whether you’re buying or taking you’re own food to have a picnic. I love that the residents of New York came together to make something new and beautiful out of the old, instead of simply abandoning it forever, and I think that it’s something that everyone should go and see if they have the chance. Here’s the website address if you would like to learn more about the highline!
‘We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.’Jawaharial Nehru