Bob Diamond gets the shaft — literally!

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Updated 7:33 pm, December 18, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Publius from Bklyn says:
I still don't know how Diamond Bob gets in and out of the manhole.
Dec. 18, 2010, 2:59 pm
J from Brooklyn says:
Well, Bob is a smart guy who knows a lot and that clearly threatens people. Instead of rewarding him for his dedication to Brooklyn they are punishing him for speaking his mind.
Dec. 18, 2010, 8:26 pm
Publius says:
He may not have been forking over the required payola to keep his tunnel tour business open.
Dec. 18, 2010, 11:20 pm
Tony from Bay Ridge says:
Does he own the tunnel or the land the tunnel is located on ? How has he been getting away with this for yrs ? Blocking the middle of Atlantic Ave for his tours,,,can I block Atlantic Ave and go down that manhole if I wanted ? I thought the city owned the property. Pubius is correct, prob not giving enough in kickbacks to the right people.
Dec. 19, 2010, 9:19 am
JJ from Brooklyn says:
He hasn't been paying tribute (not a matter of money necessarily — we're talking respect) to the powers that be. He also comes across a little loopy.

The fact is, he's contributed something substantial to the community and should be shown some consideration.

Nevertheless, putting 150 people down a manhole for a movie (or theater performance or whatever) is clearly dangerous, and FDNY should have acted sooner. Prohibiting large gatherings in a sealed space with just one [difficult] exit is nuts. But allowing Diamond to conduct small tours (with a set capacity limit) is another matter, and hopefully the city will allow those tours to go forward.
Dec. 19, 2010, 12:46 pm
Paco from Cobble Hill says:
loopy or not, he's done a great service to Brooklyn discovering, investigating, and leading those tours. Perhaps one day it'll re-opened and called the "Diamond" Tunnel?
Dec. 19, 2010, 4:50 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Typical nanny BS from the city. What do you expect...
Glad I went on the tour when they were still running them.
Dec. 20, 2010, 8:53 am
tracksofnyc from Westchester says:
Another chapter in City history put out to pasture. If he'd put a Starbucks in I bet they woud allow it to stay open. Most folks spend way too much time waiting in line for ridiculously overpriced java juice injected with syrup.
Dec. 20, 2010, 11:50 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
National Geographic filmed Bob in 1986, and heard the tales from Juan Vega, about a skeleton on the train on the other side of the wall. National Geographic declined to develop that film knowing that Bob and his informants were telling tall tales.

The current crop of film makers from National Geographic were told this, but are going to pump money into a hole, chasing spooks and tall tales. Television no longer cares about facts - look at all the ghost shows on tv now.

There is no train down there. Why would there be? Why would a valuable piece of railroad equipment be abandoned and walled up in the 19th century?

But, may you can keep milking this forever, telling the world that if we just raise enough money, we can find it.

National Geo is squandering their heritage if they put a dime into that search.
Dec. 21, 2010, 11 am
Mr. Rat from Sewer says:
Finally, some peace and quiet.
Dec. 22, 2010, 12:06 am
gcampy1 from dyker heights says:
Doesnt say much for the city if they wait 28 years to shut him down.
Jan. 2, 2013, 7:17 pm

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