A Full Guide To New York City’s Undergrounds
Beneath the obvious – If there’s a city synonymous with high-rises, it’s New York. The Big Apple has long had a love affair with skyscrapers, and buildings ranging from the Chrysler to the Empire State have defined its skyline for nearly a century now. But far, far below these cloud-baiting towers are some compelling sights that most people don’t even realise exist, offering an alternative and -literally – underground take on the city. Head below street level to discover everything from lost nuggets of urban history to plans for the world’s first underground park-currently being built in the old Manhattan trolley terminal. Before long, you won’t even miss the sky!
Getting there & around – There are direct flights to New York from many UK cities, with flights taking from seven hours and 30 minutes. Once there, New York has a comprehensive public transport system, from one of the world’s largest subways to an efficient bus network. A MetroCard covers both forms of transport and can be bought on buses or from vending machines and subway stations. Single rides on either cost US$2.75 (£2) and a seven-day unlimited pass costs US$31 (£23.50). Express buses cost a little more (US$6.50 [£5] per ride) but are quicker and make fewer stops.
The visit – Dip below street level for a look at the alternative Big Apple. Head first to Manhattan’s proposed below-ground park, known as The Lowline project. Located in the former Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal, disused since 1948, it will be years before it opens officially (around 2020), but in the meantime its lab and exhibition offer a sneak peak at what will be the world’s first subterranean solar-powered park. Next hit New York’s subway: the city’s underground spine and the theme running across many sub-city trips. Try tours of the abandoned but spectacular City Hall station, walking under its shimmering chandeliers and arched ceilings, as resplendent today as in 1945, its last year of service.
For more of the subway’s rich history, the New York Transit Museum has vintage carriages and artefacts. After, wander the underground crypts and catacombs of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Little Italy, where many influential New Yorkers now lie. Finish with an absinthe at the William Barnacle Tavern in the East Village, one of few surviving prohibition-era speakeasies. It may no longer be hidden, but inside still contains the odd mafia escape tunnel to boost its underground cred.