Braving giant rats, albino alligators and hungry CHUDs, I headed into underground Brooklyn today with a group of friends. Three years now, every other Sunday, I’ve watched people climbing a rickety ladder down into a manhole in the middle of the Court Street/Atlantic Avenue intersection for tours of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel.
Every week, I’d say to myself, “Self, you need to get in on that action.” And every week, I kept putting it off until prompted by a New York Times article a few weeks ago. I should have done it sooner. The Times, as is its wont, has ruined yet another experience by shining the bright light of publicity on it. Back in the day, the tours looked to be about 50-people strong. Today, the 1:15 tour attracted somewhere between 150 and 200 people.
We waited in line alongside the massive walls of Trader Joe’s, putting up with the questions of passers-by. “What’s going on?” My best answer was, “There’s a big sale on pickles at Trader Joe’s.” 200 people, though. Ridiculous.
Do you know how long it takes to get that many people down one ladder, through a manhole cover? Damn long. That’s how long. So we ended up waiting for half an hour in the dank bowels of Brooklyn as the other 195 people climbed through.
But once the tour started, it was totally worth it. In truth, there’s not a great deal to see. It’s a half-mile long tunnel used briefly by the Long Island Rail Road during the 19th century.
The history of the tunnel–especially as told by tour guide Bob Diamond–is what makes the trip fun. So does his history of how he rediscovered the tunnel after it vanished from the history books or was otherwise deemed undiscoverable by people in the know. (Prior to the mid 80s when Diamond found it again, the last time anyone had seen it was when the Feds busted a hole through the street during World War I because they’d heard rumors from old people in the neighborhood that German spies were making mustard gas down there.)
Anyway, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, I’d recommend it. But you might want to wait a couple months until the throngs prompted by the Times story thin out a little.