A legendary railway explorer will sue the city to regain access to the abandoned subway tunnel under Atlantic Avenue that he rediscovered decades ago, but was evicted from earlier this month.
Bob Diamond — who has runs tours of the defunct tunnel since “discovering” it in 1980 — announced on Thursday that he plans to sue the Department of Transportation for cancelling his tours, plus the popular Rooftop Films’ “Trapped in the Tunnel” event earlier this month, after the FDNY declared the tunnel a fire hazard.
Diamond’s suit will argue that the city barred him and the films without allowing him to address the FDNY’s concerns about air quality and the tunnel’s lone emergency exit.
“The FDNY gave us a list and said to fix it [but] the Department of Transportation says, ‘No, you can’t go in there anymore,’ ” Diamond said. “This is on the DOT’s head!”
Diamond and Rooftop Films received the last-minute notice from the FDNY on Dec. 10, followed closely by the ban from the Department of Transportation — more than 30 years after Diamond rediscovered the tunnel and started his tours.
The tunnel has also hosted film events before, as recently as August, with no complaints from the city.
But this time, the FDNY said that there could be “many deaths” if something went wrong inside. The city hasn’t fully explained its newfound interest in the tunnel, but noted that it’s the city’s prerogative to revoke access. And access to and egress from the tunnel has long been an issue, as it takes an hour to get everyone in and out with the one entrance — a manhole just west of the intersection of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Diamond has a few ideas to fix the problems, such as reopening defunct exits along Atlantic Avenue — but he claims that he’s been denied access to do the work several times.
It’s yet unclear exactly what Diamond’s lawsuit will claim, but he said that the damages he’ll request would be “significant.” Rooftop Films had claimed that it lost $7,000 due to the cancelation.