AMATEUR SPELUNKER

It’s nice down there, in an apocalyptic sort of way a temperate rain cave, thanks to the misting spigots that are used to settle all the ancient dust. The rat population, too, must have learned to be skeptical after all these years, because, on this particular visit, there were no rodents in evidence. Maybe they require greater traces of urine in die atmosphere. Nor was there a third rail no risk of electrocution. The spelunkerʼs attempts to imagine himself as Snake Plissken, fending off’the Crazies in «Escape from New York» were undermined by the sandhogs cheerful graffiti: a smiley face on the wall of a passage between the north- and southbound tunnels, at around Eighty first Street; «Chads Hot Tub», spray-painted in orange, above a slurry of sewer drainage and cement residue, a little farther north. The sight of workers jamming red sticks into drilled schist indicated that it was time to beat a retreat to the Thunderdome.

Horodniceanu, an optimist, likes to give out hats emblazoned with the letter «T» to the survivors of his tours, which will resume in September, on occasional Saturdays. The “T’ refers to the new train that will be put in sendee if die M.T.A. can get as far as Phase III, extending die line south to Houston Street. But first it’ll need to complete Phase II, extending north from Ninety sixth Street up to 125th Street. (This, like Phase I, will be considered an expansion of the QJine. Easy, right?

«They were built close to the surface», Tom Peyton, a vice-president for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm overseeing the engineering work, said of the existing tunnels. «So connecting those is going to be all soil, and that will be problematic. The rock is deep if s decomposed and we’re going to have to go deeper to get underneath Lexington Avenue, underneath Metro-North, and find rock that we can mine out». Peyton was standing in the project’s makeshift headquarters, on Second Avenue, near a muck house that was soon to be disassembled. «That’s going to be a challenging phase if and when they get the money», he went on. «I’m not sure I’ll be around».

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