I climbed down the manhole fighting many anxieties and my better judgment. Thankfully, I didn't have a lot of time to consider it as there were dozens of others behind me waiting to get down there too.
This was the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour, which has recently begun again after a long hiatus. Despite my fears of falling into the depths below, I've really wanted to take this tour for a long time.
The tunnel itself is the oldest known subway tunnel. 45 feet below street level, it served the Long Island Railroad in it's first incarnation as a way to ferry goods to and from New York Harbor to the Long Island Sound. The Sound was the gateway to New England and, more importantly, the shipping lanes to Europe that started in Boston.
Along with Eric & Marni, Tammi and I took the 2 hour tour led by Bob Diamond. Diamond discovered the tunnel in the early 80's after it had been hidden for nearly a century. He tells a juicy story of history, politics and corruption, Brooklyn-stlye about how the tunnel was built, hidden and became the source of lore for decades afterward.
There have been many unsubstantiated plans through the years for the tunnel, so it's unclear what, if anything is going to be done with this historic landmark, but until something actually develops, it's great to be able to walk deep into Brooklyn's history.
The tours book up quickly, so check the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association's website for dates and make a reservation in advance. The next available tour is on April 19th.