Last weekend a film screening event inside the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was canceled after the FDNY contacted the event's organizers, Rooftop Films. Yesterday the Daily News reported that the FDNY has now shut down all future tours of the historic tunnel, which was discovered by Bob Diamond back in 1981. Their reasoning was that there is only one entrance to the tunnel, via a ladder and manhole on Court Street—however, Diamond tells us there is actually a second possible entrance located near Hicks Street that the DoT will not permit him to connect (something he says would take just five hours to do).
As things stand, FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told the paper, "This is not a safe place for the public to be allowed to go. It's dangerous down there. There's no safe way into and out of the tunnel." Air quality in the tunnel was also in question (though he tells us, "since 1981, the Gas Company (now National Grid) has been using an electronic test probe inside the tunnel, near Hicks Street. I can show you the probe, and the electronic telemetry equipment box mounted on the sidewalk above."). In defense of his tours, Diamond says they have been going on for decades and thousands have safely entered and exited the tunnel during that time, without incident.
Earlier today Diamond told us that "the FDNY has been constantly inspecting the tunnel tours for the last 30 years. This inspection is done by Engine 205 and Ladder 118, located at 74 Middagh Street, Brooklyn Heights." Some have even been tour customers! To that end, he asks, "What's really the problem, and who is it really coming from?" He believes the DoT is pulling the strings to put an end to the tours, telling us, "I think the reason is connected with the Mayor's Red Hook streetcar plan. DoT uses the bulk of its Federal grants on bus related projects. Certain vested interests do not want the streetcar project to succeed, as they fear it will chew into their bus related grants. By silencing me by ending the tunnel tours, they've cut of the streetcar project's most vociferous advocate."
Diamond has also only heard of the tunnel closing via the media, and says he has not been notified by the FDNY or any other city officials. He says, "recall that on my tunnel tour, I talk about how the city, back in the early 1980s, fabricated every sort of lie and excuse, to keep me out of the tunnel. Well, hears the living proof—they're trying it again!" He sent along some documents, including a safety report (above) stating the tunnel is safe and sound as a tourist attraction.
For now, he plans to continue with the tours—saying, "since I've never been directly contacted regarding the ban, I'm going ahead and continuing with them, despite the verbal rumors currently circulating... if I am arrested, or the tour stopped, it will be well publicized around the world. I'm not trying to get into a pissing contest with FDNY, but by the same token, if they want me to do something, they have to come directly to me like responsible adults and simply ask."
UPDATE: Diamond tells us the DoT "just revoked the Consent contract for the tunnel tours, and told me I'll be locked up if I try going there. Just heard this news verbally from Ann Koenig at DoT—of course, it comes on a Friday evening." (Letter added above.)