NYC’s Secret Spaces

Awhile back I did a post about NYC’s most recognized landmarks (NYC Highs). As usual, more content ended up on the cutting room floor than in the post, but this time it was different — the scraps felt more compelling than what made it into the post.

However, rather than being about NYC’s highlights, these clips were about oddities that are off of the beaten path, or more accurately, under it. It seemed a shame to not share them, so here’s a recap of my unexpected expedition into NYC’s most hidden gems.

The first stop on the tour “almost” made it into the other post. It’s called the Lowline, and the name is a deliberate take on the High Line that did make it into the earlier post.

It’s a project that is trying to create an underground park in the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal on the Lower East Side.

The Low Line Lab mentioned in the video is no longer open, but according to Wikipedia, the park is scheduled to open in 2021.

My research on the Lowline diverged into an unexpected journey into some of NYC’s hidden underground spaces — there are actually many abandoned “ghost” subway stations.
NYC’s Most Insane Abandoned Subway Stations (Nina Stoller-Lindsey, Thrillist)
List of closed New York City Subway stations (Wikipedia)

One of the most beautiful hidden spaces in NYC is one of them. The abandoned City Hall Station was designed by the Guastivino family and served as the centerpiece of an exhibit about them entitled Palaces for the People at the Museum of the City of New York in 2014. Here is a short segment from CBS Evening News and an article from NPR about the exhibit that includes an interview with MIT’s John Ochsendorf who curated it.

How One Family Built America’s Public Palaces (Susan Stamberg, NPR)

While City Hall Station is fabulous, it’s not necessarily the most fascinating secret place in NYC. Here’s a 360° video segment from NBC News with neat tidbits about Grand Central Terminal. All fun to know, but about half way through, things get particularly interesting. FDR’s secret station under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel isn’t even the top attraction.

Here’s a video and story with more background on that secret basement thirteen stories below Grand Central Terminal.

Inside the Clandestine M42 Basement Deep Under Grand Central Terminal (Michelle Young, Untapped Cities)

Of course, such real world intrigue can’t help but bring to mind the deep subterranean headquarters from Men in Black with an entrance theoretically located in the ventilation tower of Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel.

Alas, I wasn’t able to dig up useful information about that, but while searching, I did manage to trip over some fun intel on the real world location of the Sanctum Sanctorum featured in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Google contributed one of their notorious Easter eggs when the film was released back in 2016.

If you search for Sanctum Sanctorum on Google Maps , there’s 177a Bleeker Street.

If you’re a movie buff, then you’ve probably wondered what’s really under Trinity Church featured in National Treasure.

I couldn’t find anything about what’s way down below there, but here’s an article about the very real catacombs that are actually below it.
Restoring centuries-old family treasure below the streets of Manhattan (Jim Boulden, CNN)

While there don’t seem to be any public tours of the Trinity Church catacombs, there are tours of those under St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and better yet, they are candlelit. How spooky!

The Secrets of a Sacred Underground (Helene Stapinski, New York Times)
Catacombs by Candlelight Tour (Time Out New York)

Finally, to conclude this adventure, here’s a video with even more unexpected hidden gems like a tennis court in Grand Central not mentioned in the earlier segment.

If visiting a speakeasy on your own strikes your fancy, here’s a relatively up-to-date list.
The 23 absolute best speakeasies in NYC (Alyson Penn and Christina Izzo, Time Out)

Find out more about things to do in North America