NYC subway photos: See off-limits and abandoned stops

See another side of the NYC subway in these photos of off-limits stops by photographers Shane Perez and Steve Duncan.

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It’s easy to forget that the NYC subway includes more than a century’s worth of old tracks, abandoned platforms and deserted tunnels, the majority of which most New Yorkers will never see—unless you’re an urban explorer with a camera and a case of subterranean wanderlust. Photographer Shane Perez (shaneperez.com) and self-proclaimed “guerrilla historian” Steve Duncan (undercity.org) have gone spelunking in the NYC subway for the better part of the last decade. From an old wine cellar in a vault beneath the Brooklyn Bridge to a flooded dead-end tunnel that still holds dust from the World Trade Center, here are a few glimpses of the vast world below.


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  • Photograph: Steve Duncan

    "Several stories underneath Chinatown, six blocks of a full-size subway tunnel, along with concrete-walled chambers like this one, lie hidden and sealed. [The tunnel] was built to be part of the Second Avenue subway, as were two other similar excavations much farther north. Construction began in 1972, but the work was abandoned a few years later as the city sank into a fiscal crisis. This huge subterranean space has been closed up ever since and will likely never be used, as all 21st-century plans give the Second Avenue subway a route that will not connect to this."—Steve Duncan

  • Photograph: Steve Duncan

    "Where do the two coolest kinds of New York City’s historic infrastructure come together? Deep underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, where tunnels and bridges merge! This arched vault supporting the bridge’s approach ramp once housed a wine cellar for Pol Roger Champagne Company. The now-defunct space only connects to a few abandoned track beds, while neighboring vaults linking active stations are used to store bridge maintenance equipment."—Steve Duncan

  • Photograph: Steve Duncan

    "This shell of a huge six-track station underneath Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was built as part of an ambitious 1929 plan to expand the subway system with a set of new lines referred to as the Second System. It would have given the outer boroughs the same excellent subway access that most of Manhattan has, but was abandoned during the Great Depression and forgotten by later generations. In 2010, this space became home to the Underbelly Project, an impressive group effort by a number of street artists. This photo is from years prior to that, when it was still undecorated and my friends visiting it suggested it could become an underground bowling alley—after all, the track beds (which never had tracks) were perfect lanes, already set up."—Steve Duncan

Photograph: Steve Duncan

"Several stories underneath Chinatown, six blocks of a full-size subway tunnel, along with concrete-walled chambers like this one, lie hidden and sealed. [The tunnel] was built to be part of the Second Avenue subway, as were two other similar excavations much farther north. Construction began in 1972, but the work was abandoned a few years later as the city sank into a fiscal crisis. This huge subterranean space has been closed up ever since and will likely never be used, as all 21st-century plans give the Second Avenue subway a route that will not connect to this."—Steve Duncan

  1. Shane Perez
  2. Steve Duncan

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