The New York City skyline is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable ones in the world. And below that skyline of concrete, glass office buildings, and towers lies one of America’s earliest settlements filled with rich history and countless landmarks. But also, underneath those concrete sidewalks and taxi-filled streets is a treasure trove of secrets and activities. And we’re not just referring to the world’s largest underground subway system (as measured by the number of stations); we’re talking about the secret subway stations, underground vaults, secret tunnels, and more.
Art in the Underbelly.
Hidden in a long-abandoned subway station is an exhibit of works created by 103 street artists from around the world. The work, mainly murals painted directly on the station walls, took 18 months to complete. But the exhibit, known as the Underbelly Project, closed on the very night it opened! Only the artists and guests invited to opening night in the summer of 2010 know the location of this clandestine gallery. It’s been rumored to be above the G train’s Broadway stop in Williamsburg. Search for it at your own risk. The area is dark and dangerous and trespassing is illegal. Just ask the 20 people who were arrested as they attempted to visit this collection of street art under the street. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/arts/design/01underbelly.html?pagewanted=2
More than water under the bridge?
A Cold War Bomb Shelter was discovered inside the Brooklyn Bridge in 2006. City inspectors stumbled upon a room filled with supply boxes, stamped with the years 1957 and 1962. Inside were stockpiles of blankets, medicine, water containers and, interestingly, more than 350,000 crackers. For security reasons, officials have kept the exact location of this hidden chamber a secret. But it is said to be under the bridge’s Lower Manhattan entrance. Image Source: Inside the bunker, courtesy of Reuters/Seth Wenig.
A Brooklyn brownstone…or wait…what?…a secret subway station!
The blacked-out windows of 58 Joralemon Street near Willow Place in Brooklyn Heights isn’t an abandoned building. That 3-story brownstone is actually an emergency subway exit and ventilator, situated along the 4 and 5 train tunnels. A similar substation exists behind the walls of 108 East 19th Street, near Irving Place in downtown Manhattan. That one’s hidden behind a large set of garage doors. Those stations still serve a purpose. But many stations have been abandoned over the years. Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:58_Joralemon.jpg
Keep an eye out while heading downtown on the IRT number 6 train.
The preserved City Hall stop may be NYC’s most famous abandoned train station. But it’s certainly not the only one. You can see one from the front car while traveling between the 86th St. and 96th St. stops along the 1, 2, and 3 tracks at West 91st Street. And there’s another at East 18th Street along the 4/ 5/ 6 line between 14th St. /Union Square and 23rd St stops. These were shut down between 1948 and 1959 because their proximity to other stations had rendered them unnecessary. Image Source: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/IRT_West_Side_Line
Courtesy of the New York Public Library
Chicago isn’t the only big city renowned for slaughterhouses. The Big Apple has cow tunnels!
At the turn of the 20th century, cattle came from New Jersey to the Manhattan docks by barge. To simplify their transport from dock to slaughterhouse, the city built underground cattle tunnels. This Meatpacking District was home to many Manhattan slaughterhouses and packing plants long before the neighborhood became a tourist trap. The cow tunnels are located at 34th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, and along 39th Street at 12th Avenue. These cow tunnels were rediscovered during an archaeological documentary study conducted for the 7 train extension in 2004. Image Source: From The Manhattan Abattoir by V.L. Kingsbury, 1877.
Little Italy has more than a few secrets buried here.
Deep underneath St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry St. lays a mausoleum for the Catholic residents of Little Italy. Among the notable New Yorkers laid to rest are the founders of the Emigrant Savings Bank and ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, Dominic Lynch, and the Delmonico’s, of restaurant fame.
Grand Central Secrets … all aboard the Hogwarts Express?
Not every platform is visible to all who pass through the busiest train station in the world. There is a track not found on any map, called Track 61 or the Waldorf Astoria track. Originally built as freight and loading platform, it became a private railroad station and a way for distinguished guests of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to enter and exit the city surreptitiously. It is said to have been used to transport Franklin Delano Roosevelt to hide the fact that he had polio and used a wheelchair. Some say the track is still kept in running condition today so when the president is in town he will have a way to exit in an emergency. Source: http://gothamist.com/2011/11/07/photos.php#photo-1
Coming Soon … the World’s First Underground Park.
The New York underground is about to go mainstream. The world’s first underground park — complete with trees, grass, and sunlight — is under construction in an abandoned underground trolley terminal on the city’s Lower East Side. Using innovative solar technology, the “Lowline” will transform a dank underground into a lush urban oasis. Scheduled completion is 2018. Source: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/photos-the-first-underground-park-in-the-world-is-under-construction-in-new-york-city-all-set-to-open-by-2018/516045-79.html