Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Reinventing the Rodent" Underground Rat-Themed Art Opening in the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel

On May 16th, which happened to be my birthday, my girlfriend and I went to an underground art opening for the rat-themed "Reinventing the Rodent" art show. The Show was literally underground, as it was inside the long-lost Atlatic Avenue Tunnel. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is the world's oldest subway tunnel, which many New Yorkers don't even known is right below their feet under the streets of downtown Brooklyn.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel (aka the Cobble Hill Tunnel) was built in 1844 by the Long Island Rail Road to relieve congestion in downtown Brooklyn. It is 17 feet high, 21 feet wide and a half-mile long. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was built in just seven months using only hand tools and primitive equipment. It accommodated two standard gauge tracks.

In 1861 the tunnel was ordered to be filled-in due to a ban on railroad locomotives within the city limits of Brooklyn, however both ends were merely capped. Over the next century the tunnel became a thing of urban legend and folklore, filled with German bomb-making terrorists during World War One, bootleggers and mushroom farmers in the roaring 20's and the bodies of mob hits in the 1940's. In the late 70's Flatbush resident Bob Diamond heard rumors about it's existance on a radio show, and became captivated. He made it his mission to locate the tunnel, and through years of research and physical work, he found the long-lost tunnel in 1980.

The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) was formed in 1982 to restore the historic Atlantic Avenue Tunnel. In 1989 the BHRA successfully filed and received offical designation for the tunnel on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the BHRA continues to maintain the tunnel, as well as conduct tours and special events such as the "Reinventing the Rodent" Art Show.

"Reinventing the Rodent" featured tons of really cool New York based artists including Jessica Murphy, Nicole Murphy and Ian Nettleton, as well as "Rat Poison" wine, snacks and records spun by DJ Birthmark.

All in all it was the perfect way to kick off my 40th birthday, and honestly a once in a lifetime experience. What better way to look at rat-themed art than in an old abandonded subway tunnel below the streets of New York? And we were smart to listen to the promoters of the event and bring flashlights, because at one point the generator went out and it was pitch black down there. My girlfriend Liberte made some joke about The Descent and we could hear nervous laughter coming from the dark.

The second person to go down the hole is my girlfriend Liberte (in the Batman teeshirt).

Video I took down in the tunnel.

More Video from down in the tunnel.

More about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel tours from Brooklyn Independant Television's "Neighborhood Beat."

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