The Farley - Morgan Postal TunnelAuthor: Control , Date Posted: 2006-11-13 21:24:08
NYC has a labyrinth under its streets like none other. Subway tunnels, steam tunnels, railroad tunnels, steam tunnels, auto tunnels, drains, water tunnels 600 feet below the ground, rivers and creeks covered so long ago most people don't even know they are there... You could say, NYC is a tunnel-centric city...
The majority of these tunnels are well documented and know about. However, there is one variation of tunnel that is virtually unknown to most: those rare tunnels that connect various buildings around the city. Unless you happen to work in one of these buildings, the chances that you;d know that these tunnels even exist are slim to none. Over the years I've seen several of these structures, but it has been a long time since I've had occasion to check one out. So when I learned of this one... well, what happened next was just plain expected.
The James A. Farley Post Office is NYC's Main post office.it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days week, only closing for certain holidays. Located at 8th avenue between 33rd and 31st streets, the Farley post office Consumes 2 full city blocks, the building was designed by the legendary architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, and is a national landmark. It was built in a very similar style to that of the late Pennsylvania Railroad station which was located right across the street until the railroad committed a truly baffling act of vandalism by tearing it down and replacing it with a below ground station in the basement of the office tower and and the ugly Madison Square Garden sports arena which cover the current station entirely. 'MSG' is an ugly building that just about no one today actually likes - not even the teams that play there.
As grand as the Farley building is, much of the space within it today is currently unused. There are plans (which may actually happen now that Pataki has been voted out of office as NY's governor), to convert portions of the building into a 'new' Penn station - maintaining the building's exterior and providing a more grand entrance to the penn station platforms that lay below it's surface.
So you might ask, if the building is relatively empty, where does the mail get processed?
That would be at the Morgan Sorting Facility, a massive set of buildings to the south located at 9th avenue at 30th street which consume 2 more city full city blocks. The two buildings are connected via a full length weight bearing bridge over 29th street. The Morgan building isn't quite as attractive as the Farley building, though it contains it's own historic quarks that are worth noting: The building was once served by The High Line, an elevated freight railway on the west side. Located within the building there is still to this day a strip of cross-ties embedded under a false floor from where the tracks entered off of the viaduct. The newer portion of the Morgan facility is located in the building between 29th and 29th streets. This ugly building is coated in anti graffiti paint that has peeled and become quite ugly. On the 8th avenue side of the building retail space was build in to be rented out as small stores. None of these stores have ever been rented out though, as the architects who designed the building for some very dumb reason did not connect running water to this retail space.
But I digress... Looking at a map of these two facilities, it is not hard to connect the dots.
As the map elsewhere on this page shows, the two facilities are also connected - via a relatively unknown tunnel under 9th avenue. This 1 block long tunnel was more or less abandoned for a verrry long time, becoming a rat infested, dark and disturbing hole in the earth...
Then the Republican National Convention came to NYC in 2004. The tunnel was revived as a 'secret' means of getting guests (read: fucking assholes) around without the hazards of surface transportation. Portions of the basement of the Farley building were also revived, cleaned up and of course, secured. The area was used as a staging location for the convention across 8th avenue in the suitably ugly (for this occasion at least) Madison Square Garden.
Now back up a second you say: secured? Yes. The Farley Building, being located over the tracks of Penn Station, contains an entrance to the now 'abandoned' platform 17. Platform 17 is a very strange one. It is short, wide, and located on an angle at the western end of the station. It has never been used in regular passenger use and was built with the intent of moving mail to and from the post office above. Back in the day, Railroads moved a LOT of mail, and the practice only ended of carrying mail via this connection fairly recently. I can recall clearly seeing an Amtrak engine positioned at this platform with several mail car (basically boxcars built for higher speed service) just a few years ago...
The connection to the platform is still there, though the stairs and elevator doors have been welded shut. The Secret Service swept the entire location and was sure to button down everything.
Today, the entire facility is still very much well guarded and secured. the postal service has their own police department. There are officers at most doors, and the rest are secured via a fairly elaborate system which makes entry into this entire facility not only an act of exploration insanity, but one that likely broke just a few federal laws.
But you wouldn't expect that to stop us, and with the right applications of social engineering, stealth, and bravado, the mission was completed.
(Of course, if the powers that be would just give more tours of these wonderful historic locations, well, let's just say that'd be a real plus to the city on a whole... )