The NY Times explores the world of the urban explorer this week. The group will also accept the following labels: urban spelunker, infiltrator, hacker and guerilla urbanist...in case you were wondering. They do exactly what their name(s) imply, granting themselves an all-access pass to the city whenever they want it.
Their tourist attractions and landmarks they're interested in generally aren't above ground, they want to unearth the history of New York, and there's only one place to do that: underground. The website for one such group, the LTV Squad, holds their own history: "Active since the late 70's and officially founded in the fabulous 1980's, the LTV Squad is NYC's longest running exploration team. We are a group of professionals, historians, artists and infrastructure fanatics that are in love with all things abandoned or not commonly seen by the public."
With photos and words they document what they find on a website they launched in 2001. Here's an exhaustive list of each nook and cranny they've been in. They aren't the only ones out there either, the Times jokes that "trying to calculate how many urban explorers there are puts one in the hapless position of the reporter who asked Bob Dylan in 1965 how many protest singers there were. 'Uh, how many? I think about 136,' Dylan replied sarcastically." The photo in this post is taken from one of the others (run by a teenager) called NYC Exposed (and yes, those are active tracks). Another group, UnderCity.org, took a visit to the Domino Sugar Factory (as did our publisher). You can read about what they saw, here, a story that begins "I really feel like we're going to get caught this time."
While the LTV Squad hadn't ever been arrested for their subterranean field trips, others have been. An MTA spokesperson is quoted in the article saying, “I personally took a track safety class recently, and then you really appreciate how dangerous it is — how big the trains are, how fast-moving they are, and how narrow the spaces are. It’s dangerous even for very experienced track workers. There’s no place for urban explorers.” We'd have to agree, but looking at the photos - we're sort of glad these urban spelunkers/infiltrators/hackers/guerilla urbanists are
out under there.