Help me learn what is underneath Manhattan!
October 26, 2010 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I would like to find either a book / documentary / article or even a poster that shows a cross section of Manhattan and all the various layers of 'stuff' that most New Yorkers never think about, let alone see.

Manhattan is an amazing island, built on a network of subway systems, pipes, tunnels and who knows what else, hundreds of feet deep.

I remember reading an article a while ago that stated that the island is some 200+ feet deep and I figure that the hive mind may be able to help me find out more info!

(General FYI… this is my first post, so if I'm doing something wrong, please let me know!)
posted by darkgroove to Education (12 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Kate Ascher's The Works is exactly what you're looking for. It's a fantastic book.
posted by Bromius at 8:50 PM on October 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

Agreed that The Works is what you're looking for.
posted by dfriedman at 8:51 PM on October 26, 2010

There's also an episode of We Built This City that you might enjoy.
posted by clerestory at 8:52 PM on October 26, 2010

Response by poster: That book "The Works" looks amazing I'm going to order it right now! I'll also look into getting that DVD. Thank you!
posted by darkgroove at 8:55 PM on October 26, 2010

Came here to say "The Works" too! If you read it and want more, Infrastructure by Brian Hayes is along the same lines on a national scale (but with more words and photos, fewer diagrams).
posted by dreamyshade at 9:00 PM on October 26, 2010

Ani Di Franco's song 'Fuel' is kind of about this.
posted by Wantok at 10:52 PM on October 26, 2010

Here's a cross-section from National Geographic's New York Underground. At the bottom of that page, be sure to click on the link to the "scale" version. There is stuff being built much deeper than 200 feet.

The illustrations in the Ascher book are mostly diagrams that were created for the book, and they emphasize clarity at the expense of both drama and detail. Unfortunately, photography of NYC infrastructure has been somewhat restricted during the past nine years. But I enjoyed, for example, Stanley Greenberg's Invisible New York (1998), and also Waterworks, which he finished shooting just in time, in the spring of 2001.

layers of 'stuff' that most New Yorkers never think about, let alone see.
You ain't kidding. Did you know that an additional terminal for the Long Island Railroad is being built, right now, underneath Grand Central Terminal?
posted by Dave 9 at 11:27 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

This blog has a lot of stuff mixed together, but a lot of it is about cool stuff under cities, and a lot of that is about specifically NYC. (She writes a young adult fiction series [Kiki Strike] which involves girls exploring hidden tunnels under NYC.)
posted by anaelith at 5:12 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The documentary Dark Days may not be exactly what you're looking for, but I'll recommend it nonetheless - it's about a community of squatters that live in abandoned railway tunnels under NYC. The filmmaker lived with them for a couple months for his footage. It's a fascinating look at a completely new part of the city, or was, to me...
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to the Stanley Greenberg volumes linked above, another great book you may be interested in looking for is Water-Works: The Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply, which is as much about NYC's hidden hinterland as its underground, but contains suitable coverage of the urban water tunnels, up to and including City Water Tunnel #3.

For a more wide-ranging and dramatic take on the city's subsurface aspects, definitely see Julia Solis' New York Underground: The Anatomy of a City.
posted by waterunderground at 8:04 AM on October 27, 2010

There's also David Macaulay's beautifully illustrated children's book: 'Underground.'
posted by ericb at 8:56 AM on October 27, 2010

Bromius, thank you for the link to The Works. I saw that book once and have been trying to remember what it's title was for the longest time.

Also, I can't believe the answer to this thread is very nearly "Ghostbusters 2."
posted by greenland at 9:57 PM on October 27, 2010

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