1st NW Quadrant: The Approval Matrix
From BN by Raanan Geberer
ATLANTIC AVENUE — For at least 20 years, railfan Bob Diamond’s tours of the abandoned 19th century Long Island Railroad tunnel in Downtown Brooklyn have been a perennial local favorite.
Local residents and others who have gone on the tours, entering the tunnel under Atlantic Avenue through a manhole and climbing down a ladder, have been impressed by Diamond’s knowledge of railroad history – which is appropriate, since he rediscovered the long-closed tunnel himself in the early 1980s.
When the Fire Department earlier this month moved to cancel a weekend film showing in the tunnel that he was co-sponsoring with Rooftop Films, supporters may have consoled him with the facts that he still could sponsor his trademark tours and that National Geographic TV was still going ahead with its plan to film a special on Diamond in the tunnel.
However, even this has now come to an end. On Friday evening, Diamond received a communication from Anne Koenig, executive director of the city Department of Transportation (DOT), that revoked the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association’s (Diamond’s organization) “revocable consent for the continued maintenance and use of a railroad tunnel, together with two public entrances, a manhole and ventilators in Atlantic Avenue from Columbia Street to Boerum Place.”
The DOT’s action may have been prompted by a letter to that agency from Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, dated the same day, that expressed “the Fire Department’s serious public safety concerns regarding the use of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel … These public safety concerns are so serious that the Fire Department strongly recommends that the Department of Transportation exercise its discretion to immediately revoke the revocable consent.”
The FDNY did include several possible “remedies,” such as the establishment of a “second means of access/egress” to the tunnel, installation of code-compliant electrical wiring and lighting, provision of first-aid equipment and more.
Diamond, in communications with the Eagle, has maintained that he has repeatedly asked DOT to build a second entrance, but the DOT has refused to act on it.
On the BHRA’s web site, Diamond urged his supporters to call local elected officials. Meanwhile the Gothamist blog polled readers on whether Diamond should be allowed to lead his tours.