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Diamond won’t crack! Railway explorer fights eviction from tunnel he discovered

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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.

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Reader Feedback

WW from Bay RIdge says:
Bob can always buy the tunnel, cut a second access in it and charge away.
Dec. 28, 2010, 8:52 am
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
Diamond is a menace and must go. He doesn't care about safety. He doesn't care about following the City's rules. And he treats public property as if it were his own. He must go. Let the City run the tunnel tours.
Dec. 29, 2010, 4:55 pm
Jerry from Heights says:
Whose property is this? NYC's.

Who gets sued if the worst happens? Diamond would be a bit player, since plaintiffs would go after the biggest pockets -- NYC, i.e., You-and-Me Taxpayer.
Dec. 29, 2010, 5:48 pm
Bob Diamond from Kensington says:
Hi, the following are all relevant DOT approvals for the tunnel tours. They are attached as PDF files chronologically. NOTE- we have always done EVERYTHING DOT ever asked us to. DOT's Revocation of our tunnel consent is arbitrary, and without ANY BASIS IN FACT. They will have to break down and let us perform the work now requested by FDNY, and we are suing DOT in the relevant forums to enforce:

A- Sept 28, 1988 Original DOT approval for giving the tunnel tours using the existing manhole. Note: DOT failed to do any of the "Traffic Island" work they offered. Two pages.
B- March 23, 2009 Letter from Emma Berenblit, DOT's Director of Consents, informing us that DOT WOULD NOT ISSUE US ANY WORK PERMITS for reopening the 4 other existing tunnel entrances- or any thing else- that isn't merely "[structural] integrity repairs".
C- March 25, 2009 Our Highly Positive Tunnel Inspection Report, performed by a licensed, professional civil engineer, at the request of City DOT. Cost me $3,000.
D- March 27, 2009 Email from DOT's Emma Berenblit, Director of Consents, Accepting and Approving our Tunnel Safety Inspection Report.
E- June 19, 2009 letter from DOT's lawyer, Franco Esposito, referring to me as a "Criminal"- and banning all future tunnel tours.
F- July 22, 2009 letter from DOT's Emma Berenblit, Director of Revocable Consents, re-authorizing the tunnel tours as long as we file "MPT Plans" with DOT, signed and stamped by a professional Triffic engineer. MPT Plans cost me $7,000 (Sam Schwartz & Co, P.E.'s). Two pages.
G- August 19, 2009 Email from DOT's Emma Berenblit, approving our MPT Plans "OCMC Has No Further Comments".
H- September 8 2009: Our DOT Consent Agreement was modified to reflect the MPT Plans we filed with DOT
I- Feb 20, 2010 letter from DOT's Emma Berenblit, acknowledging our on going tunnel tours, and requesting a schedule for the next two months.

Thanks,
Bob
Dec. 30, 2010, 5:46 pm
Terry from Kentucky says:
Go after em' Bob! You deserve it! The DOT and city has something up their sleeve!.............................T
Feb. 19, 2012, 12:41 pm

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