Guerrilla History & Urban Exploration

Walking Tour July 14 2pm (Obscura Society)

LIFE Magazine Nov 7 1949 on "Underground New York"

Great mid-century article on Underground New York in LIFE magazine of Nov 7, 1949! (pages 80-90.) Thanks very much to Alexis Jones for mentioning this to me. The end of the article-- see final picture caption-- says of "Manhattan subwayfarers" that "they are the foremost troglodytes." Awesome!

Mole People

Some books/resources related to "Mole People" - some taken from an interesting bit by Alex Burns here at disinfo.com: http://old.disinfo.com/archive/pages/dossier/id350/pg1/

Jennifer Toth 'The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City' (Chicago Review Press, 1993)

Margaret Morton 'The Tunnel: The Underground Homeless Of New York City' (Yale University Press, 1996) [Photo book]

Alex Burns writes about the 1980s/1990s:
"Some cultural analysts saw the 'Mole People' as an alternative society model, a critique of liberal progress doctrines. Douglas Rushkoff's 'Cyberia: Life In The Trenches Of Cyberspace' (Harper SanFrancisco, 1994) included the 'Mole People' in its description of fringe communities. 'Mole People' became a description of the lowest caste within emerging New Media industries."

Support Andrew Wonder's new project & help these kids make a movie!

Got this email from my videographer partner, the genius filmmaker behind the Undercity clip on Vimeo (linked from this site). Short version: please go to http://kck.st/egEArY and drop a few bucks (or $10,000) to BEFORE THURSDAY to help fund his project of teaching highschoolers to make movies!

Hey Steve,

Here is the kickstarter link for my class. Anything you could do to pass it around would be greatly appreciated. As you know this has been a huge passion project that I've done with all my own money but I'm finally running out. If we don't hit our 10,000 goal by Thursday, I get NONE of the funding and won't be able to complete the film by our June premiere.

The class is made up of 9 students that I hand selected from 30 applicants. The students have been working with me all semester to learn leadership and teamwork through filmmaking. We went through a lot of adversity while making the film (we lost our lead actress 3 weeks in a had to reshoot half the film in two days, the feds seize our trailer park, etc) but with the skills I've been teaching them they all moved forward and never gave up. I'm very excited to finish the film and show the community.

Here is the link:

Also, ABC down here did a piece on the class and made me their "person of the week." I put the link below.

Andrew Wonder

Articles on sewer workers

Flushers in London sewers:

And sewer divers in Mexico City:

Email of the Day

A wonderful email from Kürt in Belgium. The reason I'm posting this? The way he writes about New York City - with almost a magical, romantic belief - is exactly the way I feel about it myself. He's never been to the city; I lived there twelve years and will live there again; but I couldn't have said it better myself.

[Kürt Demeyer to steve@undercity.org]
Dear Steve

I was very impressed about your video from NYC . Like most Belgium people (and also other people over the world) , i have a dream , to visit once in a lifetime NYC . It is just something a human has to do . Sometimes , i want to escape my usual life here in Belgium , leave the rest of my family behind , my property and go on living in the USA . It was always my dream .
Now i'm married sins 2005 (a was single about 35 years) , i think it won't happen anymore (to visit or to live in NYC) . Maybe for the best , ... i don't know .
I am very in love (think obsessed) with your town , and it would be a problem for me after a visit to NYC , to return to my hometown Orroir (a little village in the french part of Belgium) . I hope you are happy there and pride of what you do and got . If i ever meat you in this life , i'll will pay you a 'Duvel' (Belgium special beer) , that's for sure . Again , thank you for the beautifull video and sorry for my writing-errors ...


NPR - "Into The Tunnels: Exploring The Underside Of NYC" by Jacki Lyden

After a wonderful time with the fearless Jacki Lyden when she accompanied Erling Kagge and me on our December expedition under New York City, her story on the trip is airing today on "All Things Considered" on NPR.

Online link for story: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/02/132482428/into-the-tunnels-exploring-the-underside-of-nyc

NY Times - "The Wilderness Below Your Feet"

Excellent article by Alan Feuer in the New York Times Metropolitan Section (or N.Y/Region section online) on the December 2010 expedition by me and Erling Kagge. Photos in the article by Steve Duncan, Andrew Wonder, and Times Photographer Michael Appleton.

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/nyregion/02underground.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
Slideshow: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/01/02/nyregion/02underground-ss.html

NYC Urban Exploration with videographer Andrew Wonder

Check out this very cool cut of some footage shot by videographer Andrew Wonder from our explorations in NYC. View it on his Vimeo page:

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

Underground Expedition through New York City with Erling Kagge

In December of 2010, I spent a week with Norwegian polar explorer Erling Kagge (email: erling@kagge.no) making our way through the underground of New York City. Starting in the Bronx and ending at the Atlantic Ocean in Jamaica Bay, Queens, our idea was to make our way from one end of New York City to the other through its myriad tunnel networks. In the process, I knew we'd also be exploring New York City's past -- making our way through more than two centuries of urban development, including streams that were once aboveground waterways in the pre-urban topography (17th & 18th centuries), to the city's first enclosed sewer along Canal Street (early 19th century), to the completely 20th-century labyrinth of the subway system. We wouldn't sleep in hotels during the week-long trip, but would camp in the tunnels or wherever we could find a spot.

It was freezing cold, often wet and miserable, far more difficult than I expected in many ways, and we only made it through a portion of the tunnels we planned/hoped to. It was also an absolutely wonderful trip. Overall it was five days and four nights, monday-friday. We slept three nights underground, and the fourth night didn't sleep at all.

The trip was originally Erling's idea and I can't thank him enough for the leadership, inspiration, and-- above all-- his complete willingness and excitement to do crazy, stupid, foolish, wonderful things like this. I also want to give me deepest thanks for the other people involved, both friends who helped to make the trip possible and journalists who were willing to accompany us on some or all of the trip to help make public the amazing world of the urban underground.

My co-explorer:
Erling Kagge (Click here for one of many online pages about him. Also, many thanks to his wonderful family for sparing him for ten days prior to Christmas!)

Moses Gates (www.allcitynewyork.com)
Shane Perez (www.shaneperez.com)
Will Hunt (http://willunderground.wordpress.com)
Andrew Wonder (http://andrewwonder.com)
Elizabeth Rush (http://www.elizabethrush.net)
Jacki Lyden (NPR)
Brent Baughman (NPR)
Alan Feuer (NY Times)
Michael Appleton (NY Times)

Researching New York: Perspectives on Empire State History

My first presentation at an academic conference:

Researching New York: Perspectives on Empire State History "Modeling Minetta," a project created with Liz Barry

Nov 19, 2010
University at Albany - SUNY, Albany, NY

"On Top of the World with the Recreational Trespassers" - London's Guardian

 My photos appeared in a short article:
"On Top of the World with the Recreational Trespassers"
Guardian (London)
Nov 15, 2010

Press on Conflux 2010

Had an absolutely wonderful time at Conflux 2010! An amazing set of people showed up for the festival. Really glad to be involved with it.

My Keynote Address from Friday Oct 8 (sound is not very good for the first few minutes, but better after): http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/10078519

Panel discussion/Long table talk, with me, Moses Gates, Miru Kim, and Julia Solis from Sunday Oct 10: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/10121777 

The Conflux channel on ustream.com: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/conflux-festival-2010


Keynote Speaker - Conflux 2010

Steve Duncan is Conflux 2010’s keynote speaker

Steve Duncan is Conflux 2010’s keynote speaker

Artist, historian and urban spelunker Steve Duncan will be giving a keynote talk October 8 in the auditorium at Conflux HQ.

Steve’s photography explores the hidden side of quotidian urban life, taking his audience to the forgotten spaces of New York, Paris, Rome and beyond. As of late you may have caught him talking about the Paris catacombs over at Flux Factory.

Beyond making pretty images, (more of which can be appreciated at undercity.org) Steve’s explorations are also the springboard for historical research. In his words, he tries “to peel back the layers of a city to see what’s underneath.” While delving into the physical urban layers he also digs into the temporal layers by researching the history of urban terrain all over the world.
Be sure to catch him in NYU’s Barney Building auditorium the Friday evening of Conflux!

"What Lies Beneath" - Metro New York, Thurs Oct 7

"What Lies Beneath: Uncovering NYC's Lost Underground"
Metro New York
Thurs Oct 7, 2010