New York Underground: The Anatomy of a City

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Did alligators ever really live in New York’s sewers? What’s it like to take a raft through the city’s old water tunnels? How deep is Grand Central Station? And how exactly did the New York postal office’s pneumatic tube system work?

In this richly illustrated historical tour of New York’s vast underground systems, Julia Solis maps out the anatomical foundation of the city—from the bowels of Grand Central Terminal to the labyrinthine ruins of the Old Croton Aqueduct to the old gang tunnels that run below the streets of Chinatown. Along the way, she tells the fascinating stories of the how these structures came into existence. For instance, a 19th century publisher secretly built the city’s first subway tunnel— an opulent one-block showpiece—in an effort to rally public support for efficient public transportation while evading the corrupt hand of Boss Tweed. She also uncovers the dark crypts of the city’s first cathedral, the creepy passageways beneath a Staten Island hospital, the strange artifacts of abandoned train stations, and the work of the city’s underground graffiti artists.

Solis, an accomplished photographer, has spent years investigating this subterranean world that she describes as "incredibly desolate and yet alive." New York Underground is the chronicle of her journeys, recounted through stories of dangerous travels through claustrophobic tunnels and her own striking photographs.

While New York City is justly famous for what lies aboveground, its underground passages are equally legendary and tell us just as much about the workings of the city.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - BookSmack!
All of these fascinating titles consider New York City as more than just an exterior. Throughout Greenberg's black-and-white photo essay on the city's aqueducts, storage systems, tunnels, tubes, and artificial grottos, I couldn't help but marvel that this was only the city's water system. Add the layers of sewage, rail, electricity, and gas honeycombing underneath, and what's left holding up the city? Solis has an entire chapter on Grand Central Station, where my Amtrak train came in, as well as material on tunnels, abandoned stations, the foundation of the former World Trade Center, and crypts (like the one under St. Patrick's Cathedral). Silver's 2000 update to the now-classic 1968 edition contains over 100 new photographs of all sorts of places that no longer exist: churches, restaurants, public spaces, gardens, Tammany Hall, and the Park Avenue Hotel. ." Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," Booksmack! 10/7/10
Jonathan Yardley
The subways are only part of the story that Solis tells. Herself what might be called an urban spelunker -- a person who loves to explore urban undergrounds -- she provides a tour of everything in New York from sewers and water mains to railroad tunnels and secret wine cellars built (most famously, at the "21" club) during Prohibition.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Does your library really need another book on New York City? Well, yes, and how about these two different and unique looks at the Big Apple. Solis, a local photogra-pher and writer, goes beneath the streets to present readers with a fascinating glimpse of the architectural wonders few ever chance to see. She features not only the subways but also bridge supports, abandoned rail stations, aqueducts, viaducts, and maxes of tunnels beow Chinatown. In the process, she covers such topics as whether or not there are giant alligators living in the sewers and the devastating effect that the 9/11 attacks had on the underground structures. Above ground, Dunn and Hood, freelance journalists based in New York City, also go beyond the usual landmarks to bring readers humorous accounts of places often overlooked in standard tour guides. How about, for example, checking out the building that has incorporated Art Deco figures of rats climbing up ropes? Or the giant Macy's sign that doesn't belong to Macy's? Will you ever think of the UN in the same way once you read about the land it was built on and its bloody history? This is a fun book to bring along with your Frommer's for a quirky, irreverent, and just plain nutty look at a great city. Both books are highly recommended for all public libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Santa Maria, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Want to know what's amazing underneath New York City? Want to know about all the stuff that you'd never guess is below Manhattan, including everything from secret subway stations to cave crickets? Then start digging into Julia Solis' anatomical report on the Big Subterranean Apple, which is dark and deep and, despite eight million people living on top of it, largely unknown." - Robert Sullivan, Author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415963107
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/19/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 776,223
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Solis is a writer and photographer who lives in New York City. She is the founder of two arts organizations: Dark Passage and Ars Subterranea, both of which are dedicated to exploring and exposing New York's underground passages.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 A city built on treacherous rock 9
3 Struggling for fresh water 19
4 In the wake of the Croton Maid 29
5 An alligator marks the sewers 41
6 A maze of pipes beneath the streets 49
7 The secret subway of Alfred Beach 61
8 Welcome to the subway crush 67
9 Ghost stations 81
10 Silent tunnels 87
11 Moving trains below the Hudson 97
12 The rise and fall of Penn Station 105
13 The mysteries of Grand Central 111
14 An overview 129
15 The lost tunnel of Atlantic Avenue 133
16 The Freedom Tunnel 143
17 Playgrounds of the underworld 151
18 Tunnels for the masses 157
19 The tunnels of Seaview Hospital 161
20 The labyrinth below Columbia University 167
21 The graffiti of dead soldiers 175
22 New York's largest foundation 183
23 Unusual foundations 197
24 Breweries, speakeasies, and wine cellars 207
25 The crypts beneath New York's first cathedral 215
26 The attraction of the underground 221
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