Tunnel Vision

Discovering a Tunnel under the New Yorker Hotel

The New Yorker Hotel has been a building that I have passed by countless times over the years, till a recent obsession with all things Nikola Tesla has me going down a rabbithole about all things New Yorker Hotel, where he spent the last 10 years of his life. I now have books about the history of the New Yorker Hotel – borrowed and must be returned but I can’t seem to find a print version I can buy – and am learning about Muhammad Ali‘s stay at the hotel after the fight of the century.

Now it is time for “one of the New Yorker’s most mysterious urban legends”, which is the underground passage to Penn Station. I originally learnt about it when I visited the New Yorker Hotel’s History Exhibit in their lower lobby, where they had this picture.

While the tunnel has been blocked since the 1960s, some online research led me to this Untapped Cities article which gives the history behind the tunnel. I then got the book titled Hanging Out At the New Yorker Hotel by Joe Kinney, who in his foreword very eloquently says – “I believe that the story of the New Yorker is the story of New York City from the 1930s to present the same way the diary of one soldier is the story of the war”.

Once Manhattan’s largest and tallest hotel when it opened in 1930, the hotel was 43 stories tall and had 2500 trains. The hotel advertised that their rooms were only three minues from a train through a private entrance from the Pennsylvania and Long Island Stations, and would connect to the subway system when it was completed in 1931. Here are 2 pages from Joe Kinney’s book since it is tough to come by. You can see the signs for the underground tunnel to Hotel New Yorker from Penn Station –

While this art deco tunnel is no longer operational and now blocked, an urban legend it is not as I have walked it up to the point where it is blocked, and the documented pictures match up with what still exists. Here is a video of the tunnel.

The walls are badly damaged, but it is easy see the color that lies beneath.

There are birds built into the design which are tough to spot in the pictures above, here are a few up close –

This seems to be the door to an elevator that looks like it would have led up to the hotel –

Here is a picture of the door that would have led to Penn Station, and an ad from the New Yorker Hotel’s History Exhibit that matches up with it. Incidentally this reminds me of the door to the Knickerbocker Hotel from the Times Square subway station, which has been blocked but the doorway can still be seen in the subway station.

And here is what lies beyond this door today, a doorway to history that has been blocked forever, but hopefully not forgotten.

I am just scratching the surface of all there is to discover about the New Yorker Hotel, and I am excited about everything there is still to learn about its history.


Hanit GyaniAuthor posts

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Hi, I'm Hanit Gyani, a full time professional by day and a blogger by night and weekend. Welcome to my blog, aka my passion project, Gotta Love New York.

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