The man found dead by firefighters after they extinguished a blaze in the 63rd Street / Lexington Avenue F station has been identified as Anthony Horton, a homeless man who co-wrote a graphic novel about his life underground. On a website promoting the graphic novel, called Pitch Black, Horton explained his life: “I was born to people who didn’t want me and so they gave me away. But I guess the people they gave me to didn’t want me either. No one wanted me. That’s why I ended up on the streets alone and uneducated. I couldn’t read or write. I didn’t know anything and the whole world knew it.”
Mr. Horton’s last resting place was about 150 feet north of the Queens-bound platform at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. After breaking a lock, firefighters discovered a two-room apartment of sorts; Mr. Horton had turned one room into a living room, 9 by 10 feet, and another into a bedroom, 6.5 by 4.5 feet.
“He seemed to have all of the amenities,” said Jim Long, a Fire Department spokesman. “He had a couch. He had a bed. I believe there was a refrigerator-type appliance.” The cause of the fire has not been determined.
I never had the honor of meeting this urban survivor, despite having walked past his room numerous times over the years. This is a man who knew how to live underground with a level of skill and sophistication not usually found in people stuck in such a position in life.
Curiously, the closest station to Horton’s room is usually a foot post for the NYPD. That Mr. Horton was able to bring in furnishings for a room shows how well he knew the system and how to avoid detection.
Homeless people used to live in rooms like these all over the NYC subway system. In many ways those days have faded. You’ll still find people living down there, but it’s certainly less frequent. Most are just trying to survive. Few live for very long, and still fewer seemed to live as well underground as Mr. Horton did.