Bob Sacha: Under New York
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Atlas 6: Photography

Under New York :
pages 02 - 11 
pages 12 - 22 
pages 23 - 32 


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Photography and text by Bob Sacha

Looking beneath a city street is like peeking under your skin: the terrain upon which your well-being depends is so close, yet so full of secrets. Under New York City there are more than 32 million miles of utility lines, 22 tunnels in all and 443 miles of subway tracks. The gas mains and steam pipes would reach across the United States and back three times. Maps of this underworld are so tangled with diagrams of cables and tunnels and pipes and mains - there are 750,000 manholes alone - that they look as if someone spilled bottles of colored inks on a sheet of paper. A fair number of people still choose to live underground, and once a year a whole herd of elephants pass through. It's another world, one that's frightening and fascinating at the same time

When I'm in town, along with 3.5 million other folks, I go under New York almost every day to ride a few of the 230 miles of subway tracks. But it was my curiosity about the other parts of the netherworld that led me into the little-seen places you can visit on the following screens. Once I slipped between the bended bars of an iron gate under Riverside Park, not very far from my apartment, to visit with Bob Kalinsky, a colorful fellow, and talk with Bernard Isaac, a clever and entertaining man. Another time, uptown, led by some 'cavers' under cover of darkness, I slid into a shallow stream and under a huge steel plate to explore the city's first water tunnel, completed in 1842. The echo inside was surreal. Then there was the dinner I witnessed in the Prohibition-era wine cellar at the tony 21 Club, and a visit to the basement of Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes on stage, and the 100-degree heat of the NyNex manhole.

I often came home late at night or early in the morning, filthy, scratching at imaginary bugs and sometimes swatting illusory demons. But I couldn't wait to go out again. It's a world that just seems to get under your skin.

Bob Sacha

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Atlas 6