This is where they live, deep into the depths of the city, way underground, lying in the dirt. Regular police ain’t bothering me, but Amtrak, they can be nasty.” Jon says he did prison time. A 1990 article by John Tierney was the earliest to outline the phenomenon, looking at people living in an abandoned train tunnel beneath Riverside Park, along the banks of the Hudson River. In 1993, Jennifer Toth published her essay “The Mole People,” documenting hidden communities residing in a network of forsaken caverns, holes and shafts across Manhattan. “Jon,” I repeat, and he appears, his head cautiously peaking up from his house, a relieved smile on his face when he sees me. I can see rats scouring for food and drinking from brown puddles in the tracks ballast. The city growls over my head — a distant growl muffled by the concrete, almost a snarl, like something cold and foul spreading over the long stretches of stained walls, like a dark and wild beast curling up around me and breathing on my neck. * * * Stories about underground dwellers were already flourishing when the first New York City subway line opened in 1904.His BA in journalism and his studies in philosophy had somehow led him to work as a model, then as a TV crew member, then as a tour guide in the Caribbean where he began smuggling cocaine to the States.
In 2000, director Marc Singer released his acclaimed documentary “Dark Days,” filming the same people followed by Voeten and Toth in their respective books. They all showed simple human beings who were in no way comparable to the legends that had been told, and they all included a man named Bernard Isaac.
“There were definitely people living in tunnels, but not a lot,” Norman Diederich, a former MTA maintenance inspector, told me. This period is gone.” “There were talks that the moles were cannibals,” Diederich continued. * * * I met Bernard Isaac for the first time in 2009.
Photojournalists Margaret Morton and Andrea Star Reese have both extensively documented communities spread in underground hideouts since Toth’s book. Written in an abandoned crew room of the F subway line, these words were the reason I ventured into the tunnels in the first place, looking for the invisible, guided by local dwellers along the years to seek foundations of humanity in the foundations of the city.
Dutch anthropologist Teun Voeten’s 1996 diary “Tunnel People” provided an incredible account of the months he spent with the Riverside Park Amtrak tunnel inhabitants before they were evicted and moved to Section 8 housing units. All the stories I had read about the Mole People before descending myself had two things in common.
That’s why they make up these stories about cannibalism and stuff.
However, the book was promptly criticized for its inconsistencies.But those who did go down called it home, and it became a haven for the destitute to unwind without fear of getting arrested or attacked like people on the streets often were. Most who lived here did not consider themselves homeless. I deal with what I have.” He shows me a box of cupcakes he found in a garbage can, almost untouched. Finding drugs has never been a problem either for Raúl, who tells me he once spent 0 on crack each day to feed his “pizzo” — his pipe — with “cheap Mc Donald meals in-between the smokes, and hard fucks with Puerto Rican whores because crack makes me horny as shit.” Heroin prices have gone down lately, so that means Raúl’s consumption has gone up. The city paid Aguila ,735 per month for each 100-square-foot room occupied by a homeless person.One day, three men asked Isaac for a toll as he came by the 125th Street entrance to the tunnel. As word spread of the tunnel, a growing number of graffiti artists came to paint the seemingly endless walls that flanked the train tracks. The ground is littered with discarded books and magazines. ” says a voice behind me, making me jump with fright. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” I recognize Raúl, an undocumented Dominican immigrant of about thirty who has been living in the tunnel for a year. His clothes are spotless, regularly washed at a nearby laundromat. It’s for a deck of brown heroin, making it cheaper than most other drugs. The worsening quality of the local drugs means accidents are now more frequent than ever, with 420 overdose-related deaths in 2013. As soon as I find a real job, I’ll stop, no doubt,” he says. The mouth of the tunnel is wide and dark, swallowing the light and all that breathes. Their eyes have adapted to the constant night that cloaks them from the topside world. “I thought it was the Amtrak police,” he later says while opening a beer, his legs dangling off the edge of the wall. The expansion of extensive sewers and steam pipes systems had brought a newfound fascination with what laid below the streets.Rubble is scattered along the train tracks, bordered by retaining walls covered in numerous layers of graffiti. Here by the parkway with the blasting trucks and the roaring cars, near the filigree arches of the Riverside Drive viaduct, here with the gravel crunching under my feet as I run down the railroad into this hollow mouth. They’ve always been there, resting low below the rowdy streets and the carving avenues, gulping the air from inside the earth, crawling through holes and cracks, living off the grid and off the books. Don’t you know they’re eating rats and human flesh? And one day they will spill outside and burn us all alive, and they will reign over our flatscreen joys and our organic delights. “They been coming less, lately, but you never know. From Jules Verne’s 1864 novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” to George Gissing’s 1889 book “The Nether World,” literature was brimming with tales of people living in isolation or trapped under the surface, peaking in 1895 with “The Time Machine,” in which H. Wells described a fictional subterranean species called the “Morlocks.” But it was only in the 1990s that the first widespread depictions of real-world tunnel residents appeared in New York. A plywood roof protects his hoarded belongings from seeping water. There is an old mattress on the floor, and cookware, blankets and electronics stacked on makeshift shelves. His real story has been buried long ago under thick layers of improvised memories that grew more detailed by the years, the man slowly becoming a collage of himself. “People don’t want to speak to me when they come here. The smell down here is the one of brake dust and mold.