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7 Days: City below

7 Days: City below

When Adam Moss entered the New York magazine final month, it meant the top of the era. Moss had helped set the journal's journalism normal in August 2004, documenting the town's life with all its excessive, low, sensible, and despicable glory.

In fact, as the security forces know, a lot of the New York DNA was apparent three many years ago when Moss rose from the Manhattan media world as a 30-year-old sunshine behind which he beloved, a short lived 7 Days journal. Two years later, launched by Voice proprietor Leonard Stern, which narrowed within the 80s and 90s, 7 days was an incredible failure, bleeding, however tasting cash for a new era of vendors.

Translation of in the present day's 7-day archives is an fascinating discovery. Jeffrey Toobin writes concerning the Yankees lengthy before he turned New Yorker's leading legal analyst; The Greatest Vendor of the Future Meg Wolitzer (The Spouse) writes a weekly crossword puzzle; a daily magazine viewing column from the up-seller of the longer term, Walter Kirn (Up in the Air); Peter Schjeldahl, overlaying the scene of artwork; Joan Acocella dancing.

Over the subsequent week, we’ll share some of these treasures in the vault here within the Sound Archive. Welcome to 7 Days in 7 Days

6. December 19, 1989

Open the properly and bounce proper

Think about that the Empire State Constructing grabs Manhattan and pulls the entire island with its roots. Think about shaking it. Think about tens of millions of wires and tons of of hundreds of cables that release themselves from giant stones and tons of black and contaminated filth. Imagine a sewer system and a set of water pipes every 3 times as long as the Hudson River. Image of mysterious little vaults hidden just beneath the sidewalk shell, steamed steam pipeline grid 103 kilometers lengthy, 18th century service provider ship buried underneath Front Road, rusty previous pure fuel strains that could possibly be wrapped 23 occasions round Manhattan, and large bomb-proof concrete pipes that touchdown on virtually 80 stories within the country

Every little thing is there: deliberate and unplanned, infrastructure and archaeological surprises. There are previous pneumatic tubes that when moved letters around the city; bathing turtles in the sewer; and the six-lane highway constructed in the late 1960s underneath the Chrystie Road subway station was sealed, abandoned and forgotten. There’s a city on the streets, however most New Yorkers gained't hassle themselves until the steam pipe explodes and kills three individuals in Gramercy Park, like one in August, or the water rafters and rinses closed the eighth Avenue subway station, as in September. Even in those dramatic instances, even if the newspapers fill their pages with diagrams and diagrams, individuals simply get a tiny little outline – a careful chart of a careless linguin cup. Pc graphics are too calculated to cover the world of randomness underneath the means. The abstract impressionists would do better.

The world beneath Manhattan is a cake of infinite layers that’s as deep as the Chrysler constructing is high. Above is a Three-inch asphalt strip. Subsequent, there might be almost 10 inches of tough concrete. Then the soil, a nasty land that sucks chemical compounds out of the road. Within the second inch or 3 coming wires – telephone and electrical energy, road mild and hearth alarm, and the newest addition, cable TV – all buried in enclosures and stored close to the curb. The fuel strains are blown off beneath one foot; the water pipe circulates four ft below; steam pipes are. Each sewer pipe is totally different (they’re installed at an angle in order that the waste water all the time flows down), however they’re often above the subway vaults, ranging from a depth of a few tens of inch (Lexington Avenue line) to 18 stories below St. Nicholas' Sq. (191th Road at Broadway Native ). Water tunnels operating between 200 and 800 meters imply the farthest dimension of the underground.

So typically there are fears. For instance, within the 1970s, earlier than cleaning asbestos, it turned a worthwhile enterprise, New Yorkers have been fearful about purple lead in their water pipes. However someway, its right down to earth, the underground retains pumping and circulate and growing.


“Many water leaks are caused by urban drilling,” says Doug Greeley, Water Department. "The contractor went through an 18-inch gas line with an excavator," says Con Edin Bob Greis. “We've been digging spoons in some places,” says Ed Moloney, an engineer at Vollmer Associates, recognized for underground information.

Moloney, a sort of confronted Irishman, wearing shirts and ties. know better than most how crowded it is there. He helped design Van Wyck Expressway, Cross Bronx and. Grand Central Parkway, and at the finish of the 50s, worked day by day with Robert Moses' workplace. In the late 60s, Moloney signed an Arnold Vollmer, an engineer and landscape architect, who had been accustomed to buried cables and wires after digging hundreds of holes on the town's sidewalks. In Vollmer, Moloney decided to document each utility path 2000 or so much on the junction 60th south to the battery. He had a system for measuring the frequency of the frequency bands representing the least dense areas with green, denser areas of yellow, and people crammed totally with pink. And what did he discover? "A lot of red," he says, "especially in lower Manhattan."

The Moloney know-how is so extensively recognized that the FBI invited him to seek out out if the terrorists might use the sewers, say they have been expelling Fidel Castro when he spoke on the United Nations. Moloney realized that sure, it was attainable, however terrorists ought to convey their own air and pray for clear weather. Rain, Moloney advised the representatives, was positive to scrub the assault.

When Moloney and his colleagues at Vollmer have been recruited to plan a new installation underground, the very first thing they do is display by way of archives: Con Ed maps, telephone enterprise maps, and utility maps made during New Deal. Subsequent, they dig a couple of check items – especially in tighter areas – to see what ought to be there. "Now you know what should be there," Moloney says. – But you ask, how does this fuel come from this valve to the valve? Will it go straight or up and down? From our experience we’ve a very good intuition about how they are set. “In some locations the town pipes and wires and ducts are packed in 30 and 40 meter thick. Then Moloney and his crew start to care for something to beat and hit the spoons.


“Here, the men and famous producers of Wall Street live,” says Raj Patel, who exhibits that the Central Park reservoir towards the residential homes of the Fifth Road, ”and Jackie Kennedy lives there. However no, they don't know how it works. In case you don't go downstairs, you don't know. ”

Patel lifts the carpet to the middle of the Central Park tank pump station, opens a heavy steel grid and climbs a century-and-a-quarter previous metal spiral staircase. Patel appears to be a small man who controls two big water networks operating along Madison and the fifth road, however he is the right measurement to be crawled between water-injecting tubes and controls that measure 70 million gallons that drive these 48-inch tubes day by day. He weaves the tour by way of the pipes and thru the previous brick-lined tunnels by talking concerning the move of the town.

“It's very heavy in the morning from 6am to 8pm,” he says, pointing at small digital meters. Within the afternoon at 12.15, Madison Avenue will register a couple of thousand gallons of leap. Perhaps a couple of hundred individuals rinsed someplace within the Decrease East Aspect.

"New York is very lucky," Patel says, accent half of the British, half the Indian. "Ninety percent of its water is delivered by gravity." New York was not so completely happy for a long time. Until 1700, the water was primarily drawn from one of many lamps provided within the spring. The inhabitants and industrial progress destroyed a very good clean factor (lifeless cats and canine that threw the pond did not assist either), so Aaron Burr constructed the tank near the current Chambers Road and constructed some 5 kilometers of tree trunks

However Burr's water was not very tasty, and the town decided to deliver it. In the summertime of 1842, hundreds of thirsty citizens picked up within the water from the Croton green area, which fell by way of a 33-kilometer tunnel to a 42-storey and fifth-floor farm tank in at the moment's public library. A hundred years later, the town accomplished two 15-meter water tunnels from the Delaware and Catskill basins.

Doug Greeley is an environmental safety department answerable for accumulating leaks in a water community of about 6,000 kilometers. Drive beneath the town at present. As soon as, metropolis staff created leaks for the aim. “In the old days when the fire was, the firefighters dug down until they hit the old wooden head of water, chopped it into the hole, used water and then finished it,” says Greeley. 19659009] Because of the abandonment of wood trunk water pipes, the town is especially based mostly on forged iron nets for transporting water. Most of the time things go relatively nicely contemplating the variety of joints that could be leaking. "We want to think of ourselves – and I'm not trying to tear the navy, but they call us a quiet service," he says. “No one thinks of a water pipe as long as they work.”

The water pipe leaks about 5000 occasions a yr and breaks about 500 occasions. The latter are those that attempt to make headlines, and their causes are principally related to age and put on. "They're receiving New York," says Vollmer's Ed Moloney. “There's a lot of traffic, and trucks roll up the sidewalk. And then below, you have continuous subway vibrations. ”

“ When these networks were installed, you had a horse and a stroller there, ”says Thomas Cowan, who manages the Con Ed fuel station. "Now you have the tractor's towing equipment." So when Doug Greeley's group is just not busy with a break, they’re in search of leaks, either via an electric grid that’s despatched via a fireplace hydrant or by microphones that take heed to deceptive water. There are distractions (“You get buses that respect your horns, subways and in some cases suffer high heels walking on the streets,” Greeley says), however they only have to get a number of meters away. With microphones they have been recognized for a number of eighteen inches.

When every thing else fails, and when the water just goes on, the Greeley workforce turns to a map that in all probability decorates the workplace partitions with extra underground technicians than another – Egbert L. Vielen's 1874 topographic atlas. The water map, as a result of it is better recognized in underground circles, exhibits all of the streams, ponds and rivers that in many instances continue to move by way of the streets of the town.

Water bleeds are typically monitored in previous beds and appear a number of blocks away, or previous streams typically occur. Minetta Brook is an example. It was used from the sixth Avenue via 16th Road to Washington Sq. and the village. A number of years ago it made a brief return to West Village's basement.


“Look at the ladder,” says Joseph Iacono, editor-in-chief of Con Edison's Manhattan Division, Backside First Avenue. On the bottom of the vault, he stands on an oil-consuming, fire-resistant transformer that brings the neighboring power to 13,500 volts. "You talk about Toledo, Ohio and a couple of poles and some wires," Iacono says, "But it doesn't work here." turbines. It attaches to the velocity of light below excessive rigidity strains and dives north of Manhattan. There, the electrons collide in cool 138,000 volts before shifting to transformers (corresponding to Iacon standing) along with 31 networks in Manhattan. The facility drops once more to 120 volts on the time it reaches the center of the house or workplace, however not before passing by way of the nicely somewhere.

Wells can leak, rats can chew, and loops that climb right down to 1500 levels Solderers might should work at temperatures as sweaty as 100 degrees. However one hungry rat, one spike screw, one small stream and Manhattan are distorted.

"It can only be 5 cycles," says Richard Peck, Con Ed's leading power distribution engineer, explaining that the second electricity consumption is 60 cycles. “But this is enough for those computers on Wall Street. Sometimes they know about it as fast as we do. ”


Robert Greis, a man who reproached the Con Ed fuel operation department, makes use of a copper wire printed on the table. Copper was melted, he says, a couple of thousand volts of electrical energy, and it was burned instantly via forged iron, which requires one out of 6500 annual fuel pipeline repairs annually between Con Ed – 30,400 emergency calls and 30,000 checks – in Manhattan

that 5 years ago, 14% of Manhattan, which is imported by means of the pipeline from Texas and Louisiana, disappeared, disappeared into the air. Flame ionisation models are at present greatest fitted to protection towards leaking fuel: backpack-sized fuel detectors that check air samples by burning them. They’re so successful that in 1989 the losses have fallen to 5%

The present leak was on account of a drained previous pipe joint. The citizen involved J.R. Thomas found it. Three years in the past, Thomas drove Greis and his mechanics crazy by calling fuel leaks daily. And he wouldn't just say he smelled his fuel within the kitchen: he would have talked about the whole metropolis block. When residents speak, Con Ed is digging, so the mechanics spend days drilling hooks around each Thomas suspected block. Just as water leaks are troublesome, a nasty fuel leak may be exhausting to seek out. "We have gas in the pit and find out that the leak is two blocks away," Greis says.

So, after a couple of months of day by day calls and comparable checks, Con Ed finally asked Thomas about his methodology. . She turned to not even use her nostril; he refines the fuel leaks by learning the colour variation of the building's facade. Con Ed, however, attracts consideration to his calls despite his unusual methods and sarcastic mumbles pressured to dig close to every poorly painted constructing on the Upper East. "We can't ignore him," Greis says. "He has a 14 percent hit ratio."

Within the mid-19th century, there have been about 15 fuel corporations in New York, every with its own fuel network. Since 1970, Con Ed has retired a 50,000-foot previous power grid. However what does it do with them? They depart them principally if they’re – despite the fact that the elders are working from 1874. "A lot of other services go through abandoned electricity networks because they are the only city left," Greis says.

The crew of Greis isn’t on their very own and undoubtedly on their maps. Because the crew is buried in a shallow finish and seems relatively new, the crew's greatest guess is that they are cable TV strains. Next, they paint the Con Ed's signature on the blue road ("If the road gets depressed, they know who's coming", Greis says), then the spider-man a bit of, and then clears the filth around his tired, leaking joints.

When the trench is so small and the instruments are so surgically efficient, the whole operation seems extra like a dental go to than a pipe repair. In a couple of minutes, the joint is sealed with a hard rubber cowl and a sealing bucket. Sufficiently the previous huge massive older cast iron tube is nearly as good as the brand new ones, no less than for these few ft. "Technology in the natural gas sector has, in any case, improved a lot in recent years," Greis says and drives off his fifth Avenue in a blue and white van


"New York has a whole range of geological provinces," says Columbia College geologist John Sanders, who talks concerning the rocky world beneath Manhattan's pipes and wires. “There are at least three great different geological stuff here.” We at the moment are talking about a real underground. We're talking farther than individuals have ever digged. We are talking concerning the rocks in Manhattan, the current errors of Dyckman Road, Harlem River, 125th Road and East River. Speaking a few Manhattan soldier

Schist is what they name rock, the place the World Trade Middle and all of the skyscrapers within the city middle are rooted. Sanders says the skyscrapers don't reside in Chelsea: there’s a deep underground there. Primarily, it rises to Central Park, stays there by means of the town middle after which runs below the 100 meter floor, about midway between the battery and Canal Road. The World Commerce Middle can solely stand excessive enough, however there are not any skyscrapers on the bottom of Bowery. What works better is sewers. In truth, the sewer as soon as billed to New World's largest constructed marshland at the mouth of the Dutch tunnel and on the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. For a long time, it combined the 2 rivers of the town till it was coated and is called Canal Road.

The archaeologists of Manhattan proceed to collide with the remains of the previous channel as they dig underground. They collide with the previous locks and the ships additionally slide, particularly on the southern tip of Broad Road, which was principally water. One archaeologist even crashed into the boat on the finish of the 18th century. "It's not surprised that we hit the tree," recollects Joan Geismar, an archaeologist who dug the location. "It surprised me that the tree turned out to be a 25-foot and a 92-foot ship."

The bow of the ship is now sitting on the Newport Information Museum, but the stern continues to be buried in Front Road utility cables. In the direction of the top of the 17th century, Geismar says that developers leased unused boat slips from the town, stuck their worn boats, and loaded them into rubbish, then sunk them. A very good proportion of lower Manhattan is a landfill, and a great part of the landfill is boats.

“You can stand there and tell people about it, but when you have a real ship and pull it out of muck, it really blows their minds,” says Ed Rutsch.

Rutsch, an city and industrial archeologist, has simply nailed right down to the place of the wall they referred to as the monetary middle. He grabbed it when he dug close to 60 Wall. In fact, the center of the town streets are often limitless to archaeologists who work mainly on the mercy of historic builders and the variance necessities of the zoning committee.

However Rutsch has been capable of compile a picture of a palisade that was about 300 years ago – an extended line of high sticks designed to maintain the attackers away. He has discovered 200-year-old coins and as soon as got here quite close to Alexander Hamilton's Latin. Latrines and privileges, by the best way, are usually thought-about to be archaeological gold mines in Manhattan. "When you lose something together," Rutsch points out that "you make at least a feeling around you."


Speak lengthy enough to engineers, archaeologists, repairmen and all the time start telling stories: unusual instances, unusual observations. There's a narrative about engineers who, on the intersection of Bowery and Canal, by accident found a small hidden room adorned with mirrors on its walls and roofs. There's a narrative about tunnel diggers operating beneath a 10,000-year-old standing forest buried 200 meters beneath the Upper West Aspect. The flame or glacier in all probability buried it, and the workers who observed it had to use a sequence saw to chop it.

The story tells us what number of inner combustion engines have been used to take away filth from digging off Grand Central: 400 runs a day for slightly below five years. There’s one horse that fell into the sewer, and a few minutes later it appeared on the shore of the harbor, and one of many 4 boys who virtually dropped into the sewer itself once they pulled out the 125-pound alligator on February 10, 1935

There are buildings that have been closed or closed. by no means built or built and never opened: tens of public rest areas below the theater space haven’t been released by the client for years; The City Hall Metro Station is retired, too brief to accommodate a contemporary practice; The center wagon terminal is closed despite the fact that it is still seen beneath the J-line Essex. There’s a three-storey subway and automotive tunnel in the closet with a glass roof designed to double the Broadway sidewalk. And Mrs. Henry J. Hibshman still remembers her husband's uninterrupted power disaster system, which pumped water deep into the cold nation of the town and pulled it back to chill buildings in the summer. The PATH practice tunnel ends just some tens of meters from the place it begins in Greenwich Village, still removed from its place, Astor Place. Personal entrance to several tales below Waldorf once allowed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to secretly run trains to carry him to Hyde Park. And the Water Road Building Escalators are still ready patiently for the completion of the second subway line

In 1912, staff dug MBT's by accident found metropolis's first subway line, 42 years after it was closed and forgotten. A 312-foot, 9-foot pneumatic tube built by Alfred Ely Seashore, inventor and editor of Scientific American, delivering his frescoed waifing room with chandelier and piano. For a couple of weeks in 1870, a 100-horsepower fan blew up Seashore's primitive subway automobiles by means of a pipe that was 21 meters below Broadway between Warren and Murray Streets till it was closed by Boss Tweed.

Then there are individuals – long-term engineers, eccentric citizens, Italians digging Con Edison, and the Irish who build tunnels. Teddy Might was a subway officer who needed to stroll on the monitor pleased on Sunday afternoons, typically with potatoes in his pocket to battle again ache. The famous Transit Authority's leaky finder, Smelly Kelly, made her popularity by defeating the eels from a tube that was within the subway station toilet and in the Elephant near the tunnel. 600 volts of the third line goes into his story, simply barely dropping him down.


Clariss Prepare dinner is nervous about the only factor that surrounds boys and blades, tired previous iron rails and hundreds of power grids. "I'm not afraid of walking on the track," he says, "and I'm not afraid of the third railway. I'm just afraid to satisfy friends here. It's the scariest part, especially once you're alone. I feel a few of these criminals know the system higher than you, and that is why there are some areas that I simply don't need to stroll to myself. As between 28 and Canal in Lex. There you meet. They don't often hassle you, however it's only a dangerous thing. ”

Vacationers go by metro, criminals robbing them, and the homeless stay in them. Between Might 1988 and Might 1989, 43 homeless individuals died within the metro system. A month in the past, in the afternoon of November, there have been 750 homeless individuals within the system, based on the transit authority, who’s making an attempt to drop subway residents sometimes. Typically the amount has gone as much as 2,000. Maintain monitor of your staff driving them on a regular basis – on platforms, tunnels, and deserted stations corresponding to 18th, 91st and Value. "Chambers Street at Night," says J.J. Wilson, “they cleaned the unused platform, they usually opened the door, and this man ran out of balls-ass naked and ran down the monitor. Once they seemed, this man was a bottle of urine and what wasn't there. This guy lived there. "

I'm not fearful that I was stunned once I first took the subway station with JJ, a 17-year-old veteran who has walked, checked and confirmed a great a part of the system for 720 miles. I feel protected, that is, till the practice comes. It's dark, and the very first thing we hear is the sound, the windy vanity that comes again behind us. We use reflective vests and carry digital lanterns, but the practice is simply approaching and trendy equipment aren’t simply compared. Nevertheless, it passes calmly, and when the bending in the tunnel is turned, the sunshine leaks in the direction of us. A couple of meters away we are on the edge of a 27-man crew – a "gang" with powerful iron and lightweight bulbs that reveal the roof and flooring of the tunnel. The third monitor is closed, but the crew treats it as if it have been nonetheless alive. They carry 1300 pounds, 39 ft of rails into place; these replacements which were dipped in the system's poor drainage basin; they usually see a couple of rats.

“It's like everyday stuff,” Prepare dinner says. “There are some large sizes here. We don't name them rats. We name them to mimic rabbits. "

" I was once close to the 14th Street and they ran around in circles, "says J.J., who claims to keep away from tunnels and close to the platform junk. "They didn't bother me, but they were big suckers."

It's virtually 2 in the morning, and we find yourself downtown on Broadway. Subway gangs get all their work at night time when commuters are sleeping, so the job is just rising once we stop close to 137th Road. A bunch of molten metallic between two strains to coach trains. The warmth of the metallic heats the tunnel. The gang covers a couple of meters on the monitor when the fiery steel explodes in a small black crucible. “Fire a hole,” somebody yells, and everyone seems away.


It's onerous to work on the subway, and even more durable to build them. Tunnels are often excavated immediately by way of a strong bedrock. When they don’t seem to be, they undergo the wet slurry, and men work in the muddy spaces of the compressed air beneath the metallic shields that maintain the water in the tunnel. Probably the most well-known subway development accidents occurred in the course of the peak interval of the seventh road. Huge holes have been blown up frequently by explosives, however that day, the boss Blaster, a Tyrolean named August Mezzanotte, in August Midnight, made a mistake. His uncontrolled explosion tore the hole two blocks lengthy, killing seven individuals – two of whom dropped 30 ft within the automotive – and despatched him to run to his nephew's house 30 blocks away. When he lastly returned to the scene, one newspaper reported that "he felt very nervous." The employees have been digging simply below Hudson's muddy bottom and had accomplished it virtually 100 meters from Manhattan on the Jersey Road when the tunnel collapsed a bit of extra warning than the leaking air with the elevator. The eight men who escaped did so in a small iron lock and simply because certainly one of them left behind to carry the water and see the door closed to himself and others. After the accident, the gang stood for ten days on the "dumping grounds and mud covers" of the Jersey seashore, when one newspaper described it as watching how the shaft was drained and the lads dug out.

Alfonse Panepinto Stations in his Port Authority's similar condominium till we reach the purpose of collapse. We climb the emergency exit in the path of an deserted tunnel. The PATH practice runs on our left, with a more trendy department; only 7,240 ft to go to the cease of Christopher Road. To the best is an axis that marks the underwater grave of the employees

“We could start a natural steam bath here,” Panepinto factors out, once we come, just isn’t really exaggerated. The air is as thick as the sauna and the clock fog lens. We hear an absolute quiet, apart from the loyal lightning of the water pump. Indeksoimme pienen rautalukon läpi ja työntämme suorakaiteen muotoiset ovet, jotka näyttävät sopivammilta sukellusveneille. Se on täysin musta, mutta taskulampulla nähdään katot, jotka linjaavat katon, vesiputouksen, stalaktiitit ja ruosteisen, vihreän ja valkoisen rantatuolin.

Daniel Gallagher työskenteli PATH-tunnelin uhrien geelilaisten jälkeläisten kanssa tunneleissa ympäri kaupunkia: 63th Road East Riverin tunnelin ja 138. viemäröintipisteen, nimetä kaksi . ”Et ajattele maanalaista työtä”, hän sanoo. "Totut siihen. Useimmat ihmiset eivät edes välitä. Kaikki tiesivät, mitä pilvenpiirtäjä näytti, mutta useimmat heistä eivät tienneet, mitä tunneli näytti. Joissakin tapauksissa olimme alas tuhatta jalkaa. ”

Gallagherin eläkkeelle jääminen, keuhkot kuluneet pois työstä, mutta hänen poikansa Brian toimii vielä reiässä. He’s a robust, rud­dy-looking child with pink hair and a mem­bership card from Local 147 of the Com­pressed Air and Free Air Tunnel Staff. He makes roughly $1,000 every week. “I want to make my money and get out,” 26-year-old Brian says. “This is too dangerous.”

Brian is standing on the edge of the DEP’s latest and most in depth water venture — City Water Tunnel No. 3, 24 ft broad and 800 ft down at its deep­est level. Dug via strong rock, it can connect all of Manhattan with its subsequent century’s supply of water.

The tunnel’s working shaft has been closed now for almost six months because it was finishe d, and the sandhogs, as they’ve referred to as themselves for decades, are deciding who’s going to go down first. They commerce swears in brogues thicker than bedrock, but the head sand­hog, Tom, who speaks principally Gaelic, fi­nally picks two males from the crew. They are positioned into a bucket the dimensions of a small oil barrel and lowered 80 stories into the bottom on a wire dangling from a crane. The wind, they are saying, is fairly chilly on the backside.

A couple of hundred yards away from the opening stands a trailer. Inside, the location’s chief engineer, Jack Ledger, sits among oddly shaped rocks, pictures of the tunnel captioned “The Doors of Hell,” and a few previous copies of The Normal Handbook of Engineering. Ledger talks about how issues are winding down now after 19 years. Engineers and geologists have come from everywhere in the world, he says, to see the opening dug so incredibly deep, a tun­nel designed to outlive the winnable atomic conflict imagined in the ’50s. He even brought his youngsters.

“I wanted to bring the whole family down, you know?” he says. “To me this is the acorn of the world. Where else are you going to see these rocks?” But he shakes his head: “They were completely bored. A tunnel’s nothing when you’re in a city with the Twin Towers and the Em­pire State. But we look at it after having watched it carved out stone by stone.”


It wasn’t until 1975 that Con Ed stopped overlaying each steam pipe that it laid within the floor with asbestos, a fiber as soon as thought-about to be on the vanguard of insulating technol­ogy. Of the 103 miles of steam line that crisscross the avenues below 96th Road, roughly 90 % are still cov­ered with the cancer-causing fiber. Con Ed says it has thought-about changing the insulation on the pipes suddenly, nevertheless it worries that such an elaborate and dis­ruptive maneuver may launch extra as­bestos into the air than if drivers in every automotive in the metropolis hit their brakes all of sudden. (Brake pads are, in case you have been un­positive, another source of the lethal fiber.)

The cost of such an in depth opera­tion is one other concern, particularly because the company spent several million re­shifting the asbestos from 1,000 of its 1,700 manholes in Manhattan in the final yr. So in the intervening time, asbestos-in­sulated steam pipes will probably be replaced as routine upkeep or an accident cleanup permits.

As is the case with a lot of the utilities underground, age is pushing for quick repair. The good-grandfather of the modern-day steam system, the New York Steam Firm, started again in 1882, and a few not-too-distant relations of those strains are still mendacity around. Steam strains have been inspected kind of yearly since Con Ed took over in 1936, but there’s nonetheless no real strategy to inform which pipe will burst next, or when.

They named the Gramercy Park’s pipe burst a “water hammer.” 4-hundred ­degree steam ran into relatively cool con­densed water. Air bubbles shaped, the water beat down the bubbles, the bub­bles received greater, and the water hit more durable. “It basically hammered itself out of the pipe,” says a Con Ed spokesman. Some­factor might have been achieved: someone might have relieved the steam strain. But any person forgot, and the beneath­ground exploded. In no time at all Con Ed was talking about retraining its steam staff, reportedly regretting the re­tirement of one old-timer who had taught new staff the methods of the pipes.

Previous airline pilots crash-land airplanes higher than anyone, and it’s the identical with underground engineers. “It still takes an expert engineer to know what’s underground,” says Con Ed’s Thomas Cowan (fuel). “I’ve been around for 35 years and I still haven’t seen it all,” says Con Ed’s Joseph Iacono (electrical).

Like the Williamsburg Bridge, the town’s subterranean iron works might at some point crumble, however all of the engineers can speak about is progress. They’re speaking about fiber-optic cables; about these new hard-rubber joint protectors; about plas­tic pipes; and about cast-iron pipes with just a pinch of silicon. They’re even begin­ing to send digital eyes beneath­ground — video cameras snaking by means of the mazes to examine previous and un­reachable tunnels.

Which is progress, positive sufficient, although it in all probability gained’t add any order to the town’s most cluttered landscape. It simply means another man-made system down there. It simply means another toy on the bottom of a tunnel. After which, in a thousand years, an archaeologist will marvel what the hell a video digital camera is doing 80 tales below Manhattan.

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