FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
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FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
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FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
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FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
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FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.
At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.
In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.
Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.
Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.
* * *
Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

FREEDOM TUNNEL - NEW YORK, NEW YORK

The 83-year-old Freedom Tunnel, which runs 2 ½ miles, once funneled freight trains into New York City. It has become Manhattan’s longest and perhaps most atmospheric gallery, where cathedral light falls upon 20-foot high walls. The day-glow alternates with long stretches of complete darkness turning the entire corridor into its own work of chiaroscuro. Admission is free but you might get busted for trespassing. And when trains speed through, you must quickly clear the tracks.

At some point the Freedom Tunnel’s freight trains went away and were replaced by people seeking shelter and artists seeking fabulous light and generous wall space. The subterranean shantytown was featured in the documentary Dark Days which chronicled the stories of tunnel residents and their eventual eviction in 1991 when Amtrak brushed off the abandoned tracks for their Empire Connection line. That hasn’t stopped folks from trespassing.

In 2007, my husband and I descended into the tunnel following entry directions from a fellow explorer. We brought a tripod and two cameras. Upon entering, we saw a man laying on a platform high up to the right of the tracks. He looked up, smiled, mumbled a few words then lay back down. We continued onwards, the only other contact with humans coming from above—the fleeting sounds of children’s laughter, adults conversing loudly. But for the most part it was quiet. We were in an alternate zone where long walks through darkness gave way to columns of sunlight that fell in from grates above and on the west side of the tracks. The effects combined with the graffiti were a photographer’s dream. Rays of light fell beneath an alien smoking from a hookah. Beautifully designed block letters, 10-feet-tall, spelled out “peace.” And the iconic “There’s No Way Like the American Way” mural by Chris Pape referenced the people that once made this subterranean landscape their home—the “mole people” as they came to be known.

Our walk through this corridor of chiaroscuro was loaded with anticipation. Even in the darkness, our flashlights revealed smaller artworks, tags, and random prose. All manner of ephemera littered the ground—a teddy bear, the bare bones of a bike, and no shortage of spray paint cans. And while there was ample room off the tracks and no third rail to worry about, when a train thundered through it definitely amped the excitement.

Artist Chris Pape (aka Freedom), for whom the tunnel is named, began painting there in 1980. There is an old photo of Pape’s recreation of Goya’s Third of May beautifully lit by a fire that a resident used for cooking. Pape said it was meant to viewed by that firelight. In 2009, Amtrak began painting over the tunnel walls. Gone are works like the American Way mural. The cavalier ruin of decades of visual history is in keeping with the heavy, sometimes tragic, history of this controversial corridor. But the art keeps going up. These days, websites provide directions to the tunnel’s once-secret entrance and more folks are exploring it. I can’t begrudge the masses. To visit the Freedom Tunnel is to experience another dimension, one that is as much a visceral experience as it is visual.

* * *

Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer.  She was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where evenings brought the sweet song of the mourning dove and the low whistle of a mobster calling his kids home for dinner. Irene spent her early career producing natural history documentaries for the PBS series Nature. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and recently finished editing a documentary on the Marine National Monuments. Find more of her work on her website, www.IreneHess.com, and follow her on Tumblr at luxroxvox.tumblr.com.

THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info

THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.

New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 

* * *

Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.

CONEY ISLAND - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Summer crowds are the essence of Coney Island. From early monrning, when the first throngs pour from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal, humanity flows over Coney seeking relief from the heat of the city. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, Germans, Negroes, Irish, people of every nationality; boys and girls, feeble ancients, mothers with squirming children, fathers with bundles, push and collide as they rush, laughing, scolding, sweating, for a spot on the sand. … From the boardwalk the whole beach may be viewed: bathers splash and shout in the turgid waters close to the shore; on the sand, children dig, young men engage in gymnastics and roughhouse each other, or toss balls over the backs of couples lying amorously intertwined. Luncheon combines the difficulties of a picnic with those of a subway rush hour; families sit in wriggling circles consuming food and drinking from thermos bottles brought in suitcases together with bathing suits, spare clothing, and water wings. …

After sunset the Island becomes the playground of a mixed crowd of sightseers and strollers. … [The] shouts of competing barkers become more strident, the crowds more compact. Enormous paintings in primitive colors advertise the freak shows, shooting galleries, and waxworks “Chamber of Horrors.” Riders are whirled, jolted, battered, tossed upside down by the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, the Mile Sky Chaser, the Loop-o-Plane, the Whip, the Flying Turns, the Dodgem Speedway, the Chute-the-Chutes, and the Comet. Above the cacophony of spielers, cries, and the shrieks and laughter, carrousel organs pound out last year’s tunes, and roller coasters slam down their terrific inclines. …

About midnight, the weary crowds begin to depart, leaving a litter of cigarette butts, torn newspapers, orange and banana peel, old shoes and hats, pop bottles and soiled cardboard boxes, and an occasional corset. A few couples remain behind, with here and there a solitary drunk, or a sleepless old man pacing the boardwalk. The last concessionaire counts his receipts and puts up his shutters, and only the amiable roar of the forgotten sea is heard.

New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

* * *

Martina Albertazzi is a Guide to New York and New Jersey. She’s a freelance photographer who was born in Rome, but has now settled in New York City. Other than photography, her biggest interests are: her dog Ugo, people, good food, good wine, and books. Follow her on Tumblr at martina-albertazzi.tumblr.com.

TOMORROWLAND - QUEENS, NEW YORK

In the New York City borough of Queens, the future was once on grand display. In 1939 and 1964, New York hosted the World’s Fairs at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The events attracted millions of visitors to marvel at the epoch of innovation and industrialization. Today, the site and some structures from the 1964 exposition — dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” — are still easily accessible, though rapidly showing their age.

A few buildings are still in use, such as The New York Hall of Science — a wonderful hands-on science museum with grounds decorated by rockets and quirky, retro, science-related sculptures. Walking through the park you can peek through the chain-link fence into the Queens Zoo and see a large geodesic dome that was built for the fair and now serves as an aviary. But surely the most interesting structures are the Unisphere and the sadly decaying Queens Theatre, which has fallen into disrepair, but still leaves an imposing impression. The park is a reminder of the optimism and excitement of the ’60s — when utopian futures seemed a sure and easy bet — and of how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go.

* * *

New York City Guide LYDIA WHITE was born on the 4th of July and has been an independent spirit ever since. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she moved to Brooklyn in 2010. When not working as an interactive art director, she spends her free time exploring what NYC and the surrounding areas have to offer. White has been photographing interesting people and unusual landscapes for nearly a decade.

Follow her on Tumblr at lydia makes pictures or on her website, LydiaWhitePhotography.com.

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.

Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.

* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently.

Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.

Good morning America: It’s #AmericanGuideWeek.

How do you see your country? From coast to coast. From borderline to borderline. North. South. East. And West.

Maybe it’s the typography on storefronts and billboards in a down but not out Detroit. Or portraits of friendly, bizarre, dangerous, wonderful people in the American South.

As our saying goes, follow your guide and see America. Throughout #AmericanGuideWeek, tell your guide where to find you.

Tag your Tumblr photos, illustrations and writing that describe the America you live in and the America you travel through — people, places and things. This is a collaboration, folks: a living, Tumblifying documentary about the USA. You’ll be reblogged or featured on The American Guide.

ABOUT THE PHOTOS

The American Guide on Tumblr is a revival of the Depression-era guidebook series by the same name. It’s part archive curation from back in the day, part documentary travel in the here and now.

The black and white photo on the left was taken by a WPA photographer on Lenox Ave. in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1930s. The photo on the right is that same street (now also called Malcolm X Blvd.) in Harlem today.   

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Follow the link here for more on #AmericanGuideWeek. Click here for more on The American Guide media project; click here for more on how to become an American Guide.