Since it first opened several years ago, New York’s High Line has become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a unique view of the city and harbor and a verdant respite from the concrete jungle. (They even made sure to incorporate indigenous flowers and plants into the landscaping.)
One aspect of the High Line that’s not often touted, though, is its queer roots.
Back in the 1970s, when the park was just an elevated railway, it overlooked popular hookup spots along Manhattan’s West Side. (Well, honestly, what didn’t? It was the ’70s.)
In the 1980s, when the line was taken out of service, it was the backdrop to Twilo, Tunnel and other dance clubs we gays loved to frequent.
Even the push to gentrify the High Line came from two gay men, Joshua David and Robert Hammond (left), who say their quest to reclaim the space incorporated two queer hobbies—design and preservation.
And possibly a third—cruising.
Charles Renfro—whose firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, revamped the park for its current incarnation—said:
In our design for the High Line… we are trying to keep and push the qualities of the Line that lend it its sexiness: It’s overgrown, it’s partly a ruin, and it’s outside the city. Our paths meander through high and low vegetation, on occasion ending abruptly… So while it may sponsor gay cruising, I think it will also sponsor straight cruising and a general sense of pleasure that few public spaces in New York provide at this moment.
On Tuesday, February 7, at New York’s LGBT Center, David and Hammond present “Behind the Bushes: The Secret Homo History of the High Line,” where they’ll discuss the park’s untold queer back story. (Hopefully with photos).
The press release gives some details:
The talk will be a mixture of playful stories and thoughtful discussion about the historical and contemporary relationship between gay men and changing neighborhoods, preservation and design. Attendees will learn how the LBGT community has influenced—and been influenced by—the High Line, from the earliest efforts to save it through its successful redevelopment.
While looking at how the LBGT community can win concrete changes in New York City, Josh and Robert will also share stories of old Chelsea, legendary Roxy parties, and the adventures they had stumbling through the worlds of art, celebrity, government, design and entertainment as they set about transforming the High Line.
There’s more, probably less salacious information to be found in David and Hammond’s book, High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky, which they’ll be signing after the talk.
Image: Charles McDermott