October 18th, 2004


The freedom tunnel.

The freedom tunnel in Manhattan is famous among urban explorers. The images I have seen of this tunnel were what started my interest in urban exploration. But, I had not seen the tunnel for myself… until today.

The tunnel was built by Robert Moses in the 30s so that the trains could run while still allowing riverside access in the park—oddly the expansion of highways the same area by Robert Moses effectively blocks easy access to the river … but the mixed nature of Mr. Moses civic projects is a whole separate topic.

In the 1950s the tunnel was abandoned. Trains no longer ran along riverside and the giant, man-made caverns became a haven for homeless people. At its height hundreds of people lived in the tunnel. In the 1970s the tunnel was reopened for trains and a massive (and brutal) eviction followed. The shanty towns were bulldozed and the tunnel was chained off.

Through the 70s and 80s graffiti artists and a new more secretive population of homeless people visited the tunnel creating artworks and a network of secret homes and entrances.

Today I walked the entire length of the freedom tunnel (from 125th to 66th st) with some other urban explorers who were kind enough to show me the way.

Here are the photos I took— I hope you enjoy them…though, nothing compares to the actual experience.

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