July 02, 2016

Highbridge Park

highbridge park
Across the street from my apartment building is Highbridge Park.

Officially, Highbridge Park, named after the High Bridge, an old pedestrian aqueduct that is the oldest bridge in the city, begins at 155th St. and continues all the way up to Dyckman St. in Inwood.

Where I live, it's not much of a park, really. It's a cliff between my street and the Harlem River Drive far below, winding along the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx. A single path traverses the park, which is occasionally used by joggers and cyclists and park rangers and more often used by drug users and dealers and teenagers escaping prying eyes.

Unless you lean over the rock wall along the upper edge of the park, the path below is invisible from the sidewalk and hidden from the highway, too. It has very few exits back to the street, and most of those have been closed by the city, or there are police barriers blocking the steps. So it's too isolated to feel safe down there. I've only walked the cliff path a few times, as the feeling of being trapped is overpowering.

It's pretty clean, though, and well-tended with beautiful flowers and lush greenery. Ignore the empty drug bags scattered around, and the ubiquitous blue cigarillo wrappers.

About 10 blocks downtown, the park widens into a recreation center, and a little further down than that, a large public pool. About 10 blocks uptown is a busy playground and basketball courts that are always packed with hardcore players and semi-pros and their fans, with blaring music, hookahs, and a general party atmosphere. The low path along the cliff surfaces toward the street just past the courts, and winds through a well-manicured park where people picnic and have birthday parties, and just up past that is a terrific, big dog run where I take Henry in the evenings to romp with his doggie friends.

Since I've gotten Henry, I've become very well acquainted with the whole stretch of the park uptown from my apartment, as I walk at least six blocks of it five times daily, and walk the full 11 blocks to the dog run at least three times a week.

I have a great fondness for the old-fashioned rock wall that separates the top of the park's cliff from the sidewalk and the street. It's the same style as the rock walls surrounding Central Park and various other city parks, and feels classic New York to me.

Along with the beautiful and varied trees, plants, and flowers, I've seen quite a lot of interesting wildlife in the area, too, including skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, large families of raccoons, possums, and of course lots of mice and rats and colonies of cats, as well as birds beyond my abilities to recognize.

This week I saw a bright yellow snail on the rock wall eating lichen the same color as its shell. Manhattan may be paved from top to bottom, but life finds a way. I'm expecting to see a coyote any day now, or maybe a fox. Updates as they occur.

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