10 years ago today, myself and the infamous Miru Kim (& her awesome sister) were interviewed for the Financial Times.
Looking back at this article, literally so much has changed.
There’s a few bits in this article that I really want to address in retrospect, because they definitely didn’t age well. In particular, let’s dig into this quote:
“It’s getting really hard to get into the subways,” Anastasio tells me, explaining that the Metropolitan Transit Authority has started installing motion sensors in the tunnels to alert the police to trespassers, greatly increasing the chance of arrest. Despite the relative ease I’d had climbing the Williamsburg Bridge, Anastasio says that heightened post-9/11 security has grievously affected local urban explorers. “There’s less and less to explore in the city these days,” he says wearily. “I guess you could say I feel like retiring.”
First, NYC’s subway tunnels are definitely more ‘secured’ than they were in 2007. At the time, the MTA was only beginning to install motion sensors in emergency exits, and cameras at all subway entrances. In the hot minute of post-9/11 hysteria, the NYPD was actually responding to this new layer of intrusion detection.
This, of course faded quickly. Manpower at the NYPD dropped, from a bit over 40,000 officers to around 34,500. The sensors themselves have become less reliable, and easily defeated. Literally anyone can wander into a subway tunnel these days. Hell, if you’re a complete idiot, you even train surf again.
Instead of prevention, the NYPD is focused on arrests after the fact. They have recently started installing hunting cameras in select subway tunnels and abandoned stations. The goal here isn’t to actually catch people in the act, but to get their photos, which are then run against facial recognition databases and resulting in arrests after the ‘crime’ of trespassing was committed. A few Instagrammers have been caught up in this dragnet, though there has been little news coverage of these arrests.
instagram happened, Smartphones happened
Speaking of which, instagram happened. Facebook happened. Smartphones happened. Photographing and documenting one’s adventures became accessible to literally everyone who could afford a decent mobile device. You no longer had to know how to build a website to promote your adventures. YouTube had the same affect, making minor stars out of people who otherwise would never have had the resources to get noticed.
The number of people carrying a camera (in their smart phone) every day skyrocketed, from a fraction of a percent to nearly everyone. The number of people buying simple ‘point and shoot’ cameras started to drop like a brick. Today, a reported 90% of people have only taken photos with smart phones. A whole new generation of explorers were born, popularizing and becoming the second wave of a hobby that was slowly fading. In 2007, the days of Dark Passage dinner parties in subway tunnels and The Jinx Project doing specials for the Travel Channel were dead. LTV was the only truly organized group left. I like to borrow a line from a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song: “I was here before they came, I’ll be here long after.”
When I said ‘there’s less and less to explore these days’, I was focused of course on abandoned buildings and large scale industrial sites. Playgrounds of decay like McCarren Pool, Revere Sugar and the LIC waterfront were being gentrified and/or bulldozed. The second wave of explorers that came along focused on subways, and high rises, and climbing bridges. Quite a few high profile arrests were made of those careless enough to trade momentary fame for life long records.
As for retirement, well, clearly I’ve failed at that. But hey, you’ll never nail it until you’ve failed it.
As for where we’ll be in another 10 years, hell no, I’m not about to try and predict that.
Revere Sugar in Red Hook, 2006