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FDNY’s ‘tunnel’ vision! Agency kills underground film series

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A popular Gowanus-based film series is out more than $7,000 after fire officials put the kibosh on a sold-out series set for an abandoned subway tunnel 10 feet below Atlantic Avenue.

Rooftop Films received the 11th-hour notification from the FDNY on Friday night that it had to cancel its poorly named “Trapped in the Tunnel” event because of safety concerns.

“Any serious incident inside during the screening could result in many deaths,” a Fire spokesman said in a statement. “[It] could unnecessarily put the lives of our members at risk as well.”

Dan Nuxoll of Rooftop Films, which hosts screenings citywide, said he was disappointed, especially since a similar film event, “Tunnel Vision,” was held in the abandoned tunnel in August — with nary a peep from the agency.

“There is nothing to be gained from battling with the Fire Department — but … this is something they have allowed to happen for some time,” said Nuxoll, the company’s program director. “The inconsistency of policy was confusing to us.”

Nuxoll’s company is now out over $7,000, the cost of refunding the $20 tickets for the two, 160-spectator shows.

The tunnel, beneath Atlantic Avenue from Court to Hicks streets, was built in 1844 as a route between New York Harbor and Boston, and was sealed up and abandoned in 1861.

Fire officials were not won over by the charming, albeit dusty, setting, noting its single exit and air quality as particular concerns.

“A large number of people inside watching a film for a prolonged period of time could drastically alter the air quality,” a spokesman said.

The tunnel was rediscovered by trailblazer Bob Diamond, who leads popular tours of the passageway. He blasted the city, saying its last minute decision was orchestrated as a way to slowly evict him from his beloved tunnel.

“We’ve done live theater here, shown films, and we’ve never had a problem in 30 years,” he said.

Films may be banned in the tunnel, but filming isn’t — at least not yet.

Filmmakers from National Geographic were in the tunnel on Sunday, filming Diamond for a planned documentary about the once-forgotten shaft.

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Reader Feedback

jim from cobble hill says:
Meh, makes sense. When I was working at a theater, one of the things that could never be compromised were the many required fire exits. I've been down there before when the power has gone out, and it's total darkness. I can see how one just one manhole for 160 people to get out (in the event of a problem) is a bad thing.
Dec. 14, 2010, 11:52 am
Jojo from Brooklyn says:
I have to reluctantly agree with FDNY that this was not a good idea. I think Bob Diamond is a treasure to our borough but it does seem pushing things a bit to show movies down there.
Dec. 14, 2010, 12:03 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Bob Diamond is a fraud - there is no "train behind the wall" and he peaked with the discovery of the tunnel.

Geraldo had Al Capone's Vaults Bob has his - steam engine on the other side of the wall - both make no sense.
Dec. 14, 2010, 1:21 pm
tg from the moon says:
nice one WW...and what contribution have you made to the historic past of Brooklyn?
Dec. 14, 2010, 3:57 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Uh, located desendants of KowenHouven family, (now living in Oregon) part of the founding families of New Amsvort, now Flatlands, annual report photos for Green-Wood. . . I could go on.
Dec. 14, 2010, 7:28 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Uh, located desendants of KowenHouven family, (now living in Oregon) part of the founding families of New Amsvort, now Flatlands, annual report photos for Green-Wood. . . I could go on.
Dec. 14, 2010, 7:28 pm
anon from PLG says:
Rooftop Films made the wrong call, that's why they lost this money. The FDNY made the right call. Any situation that puts firefighters' lives at even greater risk, like in this case potentially having to run in to rescue a horde of people who willingly packed themselves into a tight space with no exits, that alone allows the FDNY to make the call every time.
Dec. 15, 2010, 9:02 am

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