After details about the The Underbelly Project, a massive illegal art installation in an abandoned Brooklyn subway station, were released, it was only natural that people would try to visit the station. And it was just as expected that they would be arrested. Three arrestees told us about the experience, and all say it was dangerous and that anyone attempting to visit will most likely be arrested, since "the police are there now and they said they plan to be there for a while"—and the plainclothes cops may have their guns drawn!
One person, who was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and wished to remain anonymous, visited the site twice and said:
Finding the entrance tunnel isn't difficult but from there you have to climb some rusty I-beams just a foot or so from the active subway tracks. I nearly fell at one point. Once you're inside, it's absolute darkness and there are large drainage holes in the floor every five feet or so. It's also filled with 80+ years of dust. I'm a regular smoker and my lungs were complaining after just an hour in that place without a mask on.
The police were actually rather friendly. Obviously, I wish they'd just left put a single uniformed officer at the entrance to scare people off instead of waiting for all of us to trespass and then booking all of us. We might not get fines. It's hard to say. There's a chance that we'll get off without paying anything.
To repeat: there's no reason to go there now. Anyone who goes will be arrested. I feel really lucky to have seen it but at this point it's just a certainty that you'll be arrested before you see anything.
He visited the site with Paul Esteves, who says they were able to gain access to the station twice last week. According to Esteves, on the first visit, they were able to venture in the bowels of the subway infrastructure undetected, but during the second visit, they weren't so luckily and were handcuffed by the police and charged with trespassing. Here's his tale, but Esteves also warns, "If you go there right now, you will almost certainly get arrested. Besides the danger of arrest, it is quite difficult to get up—you should be able to do a pull-up." The pair, along with a female friend, headed to a subway station they believed would give them access to the abandoned station on Monday, November 1:
As we walked to the end of the platform we waited for a train to pass and the station to empty. After a train passed some other people came out of the tunnels covered and fifth so it was obvious we were going the right way.
As you reach the tunnel (you're not on the tracks but still a raised platform) you need to turn left (looks like there was a fence blocking you at one point in time). Once you walk past some garbage you're in a long hallway. Deeper into the hallway there are some rooms on the right (track side) if you stand in the room and look up you'll notice the ceiling is quite high. Luckily there was a rope tied up top and we were able to use that to get up a floor. It was still difficult to get up and we had to actually leave my female friend behind. It would still be doable without the rope but much harder.
Once your up you end up in a huge room. There are 3 or 4 raised portions and then 3 or 4 lowered portions; I assume where the tracks would go. Back in the direction of the operational station there are a bunch of shells for future rooms. There are two tall rooms towards the west there are two tall rooms, the top of which have manholes to the street.
In terms of the art a lot of it was vandalized. I'm not sure if it is locals angry at the gentrification or other artists who didn't like how these people went about it. I hope that the photos were taken awhile ago and they only let the times post when it was already vandalized.
You can see on my flickr some of the damage. Most was just scribbled over, some had things such as "You don't belong" "No No No No" "Not Feeling You" etc. The table and chairs setup was destroyed. The wolf man was still there, the projector was still up and running. I didn't notice the creepy things in the vents so I can't comment on that. In one of the manhole rooms there was some tiles that it looks like some people riped off a few. (The other manhole room had bags of trash in it so I think the artists cleaned the place up)
There was an empty PBR :-p
I brought two new friends with me to see the place. We meet at [...]'s place and headed out. We split up in groups to not make it as obvious.
I was in the second to last group with two of my friends, we waited a little bit and after a train left we went into the dark hallway. As soon as we turned to the right the police shouted from behind us (there is another room to the left) and shone their flashlights on us, we did not get guns pulled on us. They hand cuffed 4 of us together and some couples. They actually didn't have enough cuffs (we probably had a group of 9) so two girls walked uncuffed. The police station is right by the subway stop. We all got booked, they charged us with trespassing, a class b misdemeanor. One officer said that it probably wouldn't even be a fine, just stay out of trouble for a year, honestly I'd rather just have a ticket, took forever to get booked.
There were some other redditors we were planning on meeting already in the holding cell. Obviously no one got a text message out to each other. It took awhile to fingerprint and get a mugshot, there was only one processing station and it took 20-30 minutes each. One of my friends apparently has either really clammy hands or very faint prints. They almost had to send him to central booking where it would have taken two days to process.
Photographer Alex Jorgenson tried to visit the station last Thursday, but the police were waiting:
There's a hallway you have to pass through to get there before climbing up a shelf (so I've been told, I haven't made the climb). I made it most of the way in before going back to meet with some others who had been there before. When I came back with them we were ambushed by plainclothes officers with their guns out. We were worried at first as their badges weren't immediately visible. Spending a night in jail seemed like a much more preferable option to being robbed or murdered in a subway tunnel.
There were about a dozen urban explorers locked in for trespassing that night at the precinct closest to the station.
Jorgenson added, "There was talk that they were arresting other groups but started taking them to other stations to avoid overcrowding the cell."
Arts Beat says that 20 people have been arrested so far; a police officer said, "This is not an art gallery; this is completely illegal." And when asked if there was a precedent for this kind of interest in an abandoned station, MTA spokeswoman said, "From time to time, there have been urban adventurers who find these little places and enter illegally, but nothing really comes to mind, nothing on this scale."