Appreciating New York City often entails cranking your head up and looking skyward to witness its soaring beautiful skyscrapers aboveground. At normal view, its bustling city streets, parks, museums, zoos, and other attractions offer loads of fun. Underground is equally stunning. There’s the subway system that has transported people for many decades, been the setting of many comedy movies in New York City, and an integral part of NYC people’s existence.
Yet, you might be surprised that many other alluring sites are below NYC’s pavement, apart from the tall buildings, famous landmarks, and the iconic subway system. Here, let’s discover the fascinating places that can be found under New York City – you’ll be amazed that they even exist.
The Freedom Tunnel
Stretching three miles, the Freedom Tunnel was built in the 1930s for the expansion of Riverside Park. It was in service for freight trains for nearly five decades before ceasing its regular operations in 1980. With its closure, the tunnel has become the refuge of homeless people and graffiti artists. However, Amtrak decided to reopen the tunnel in 1991, leaving hundreds of people displaced.
Chris “Freedom” Pape, one of the artists who sprayed painting in the tunnel, created his final masterpiece “Buy American,” a comic book-style mural that served as a tribute to all the down-and-outs that lived in the area. With the mural gaining public attention, Amtrak painted over the artwork in 2009. Luckily, some of his other gems, such as the “Coca-Cola Mural” and “Venus de Milo,” can still be observed today.
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral Catacombs
The two-century-old St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is atop historic catacombs that are usually prohibited to the public. If you happen to join one of the legal tours, you’ll get to explore one of New York city’s ancient passageways. It will take you to the eternal resting place of some of NYC’s prominent personalities and families, such as General Thomas Eckert, the Delmonico family, and Bishop John Connolly, the city’s first resident bishop who was interred in the catacombs in 1825.
Beneath Waldorf-Astoria New York Hotel hotel is a private train platform that has been rumored to have been used by presidents as a secret escape train or as an entryway to the hotel. Referred to as Track 61 and a part of the Grand Central system, the infamous subway station is off-limits to the public and now sits abandoned underground.
The New York Federal Reserve’s Gold Vault
Resting 80 feet below Manhattan’s bedrock under the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building is the institution’s gold vault that holds the world’s largest known monetary-gold reserve, with over 6,000 tons of gold in storage as of 2019. With nearly 500,000 gold bars, it’s easy to assume that they will strictly be out-of-bounds. But, the Fed Reserve actually offers free tours that will allow you to see the vault and discover more about the system and the role it plays in the country’s economy.
The Frick Collection Bowling Alley
The Frick Collection is an internationally-acclaimed premier museum that houses some of the most prestigious Old Master artworks and exceptional European sculptures and masterpieces. Visiting the mansion and seeing the lavish interior and the priceless arts will undoubtedly leave you in awe. With such opulence, it may be hard to imagine, but Henry Clay Frick’s personal bowling alley actually rests in its basement. Built in 1914, it’s one of the most extravagant lanes crafted during its time. Sadly, the space isn’t open to the public.
Woolworth Building’s Speakeasy
The Woolworth Building was the tallest skyscraper in NYC upon its completion in 1913. It was the defining feature of the city’s skyline for nearly two decades before it was eclipsed by the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street in 1930. Meanwhile, its design closely resembled that of European Gothic churches, which is why it was also dubbed as the “Cathedral of Commerce.” Yet, most aren’t aware that hidden below the iconic building is a chic speakeasy adorned with sconces and sofas, painting, and lighting fixtures derived from the Plaza Hotel. The subterranean bar is now only for private special events.
Crown Finish Caves
Third feet beneath Bergen Street in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, you will find a tunnel network that dates back to the 1850s. Initially used by Nassau Brewery for fermenting barrels of beer, the cavernous caves now serve as a dairy plant and cheese-aging facility owned by Crown Finish Caves. It holds about 28,000 pounds of aged cheese from various local artisans and those coming from Italy and Spain. No tours are offered for the cheese-ripening facilities to avoid contamination, but special events in the non-renovated parts of the tunnel are available.
In a city where people mostly look up, focusing on what’s under can be rewarding, given that there are also fascinating places beneath that boast their own charm and rich history. So, dig deep and be prepared to gain new perspectives and knowledge about what is beneath your feet in New York City.