Talk about getting the shaft!
The city plugged up a piece of Brooklyn history Friday as it severed ties with historian and railroad aficionado Bob Diamond and ordered the famed Atlantic Avenue tunnel — a long abandoned railway passageway where Diamond holds popular tours — closed.
“[The city] told me that I’ll be locked up if I try going there,” Diamond told this paper moments after receiving word that the city was tearing up a consent contract that allowed him access to the tunnel between Court and Hicks streets until 2018.
“Of course, it comes at 5 pm on a Friday evening — the way thieves and crooked lawyers like to work,” he said.
The tunnel’s sudden shut down takes the steam out of Diamond’s plans for future underground excursions — one of which was scheduled for Sunday — as well as his dreams of uncovering a 19th-century locomotive rumored to be buried in the tunnel behind three feet of granite.
It has also put a National Geographic documentary about Diamond and his beloved tunnel in jeopardy, he explained.
“Clearly, the mayor doesn’t give a damn about this historical treasure, which the public loves,” Diamond said.
The Department of Transportation closed the tunnel at the behest of the FDNY, which determined it to be a three-block-long safety hazard this week — even though Diamond has been running tours and events there for 28 years.
The tunnel was built in 1844 as a route between New York Harbor and Boston, but was sealed up and abandoned in 1861.
Diamond, founder of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, re-discovered it in 1981. His first guided tunnel tour began a year later.
Over the decades, local fire companies routinely inspected the tunnel and gave Diamond the go-ahead. “Some have even been tour customers,” Diamond told Gothamist, a blog.
But last Friday, the FDNY suddenly nixed the sold-out “Trapped in the Tunnel” film series just before the underground films were to premier 10 feet below Atlantic Avenue — leaving organizers $7,000 in the hole.
Fire officials claimed the tunnel’s poor air quality and single exit — a ladder that leaves one in the middle of Atlantic Avenue — made the tunnel too dangerous for the 160 movie lovers expected to attend the Dec. 10 film series.
FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer cited the same reasons when he explained why the city put the kibosh on all future tunnel access: If someone was injured underground, there would be no way for first responders to safely remove that person, Dwyer claimed.
“This is not a safe place for the public to be allowed to go,” he said. “It’s dangerous down there.”
Yet no one had those concerns in August when a similar film series was held in the tunnel, Diamond claimed. Nor did anyone ever try to stop the numerous below-ground tours and events that he’s held there for nearly three decades.
“We’ve done live theater here, shown films, and we’ve never had a problem,” Diamond said.