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

FDNY’s ‘tunnel’ vision! Agency kills underground film series
Photo by Tom Callan

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.