The Freedom Tunnel

The Freedom Tunnel is an Amtrak route that actively runs through the streets of Uptown Manhattan underneath the famous Riverside Park. But it’s more than just your average railroad line, those tunnels are teeming with history and stories which will never be fully understood. A safe haven for the homeless and a sanctuary for graffiti artists, The Freedom Tunnel partially obtained it’s name from an artist named Chris “Freedom” Pape in the 1980s. When the train’s service temporarily came to a stop in the tunnel, he filled those walls with urban paintings, and even created remixes of classical works of art.

The tunnel also got its name because decades ago, hundreds of homeless people-now infamously known as “The Mole People”- used to have an underground society within these walls. They lived carefree, rent free, and rule free away from society in their hand-built shantytowns. Unfortunately, most of them were eventually evicted since Amtrak purchased and now utilizes this track. However, that doesn’t stop urban explorers (like me) and graffiti artists who want to make their mark or pay their respects to the work of Freedom. There are even still some homeless people living there as you read this. Because Amtrak has recently been trying to restore the tunnels’ original look, a lot of the most famous works by Freedom and other notable artists have since been destroyed. But within the darkness, underneath the rocks, ruin and rubble, there is still a lot of life, and tons of great artwork to be seen.

graffiti over train tracks, in black and white

A view of the entrance to the tunnel.

train tracks in a tunnel, in black and white

Looking outside from within.

two paint cans and a whiskey bottle on the ground, against a turquoise wall

Tools of the trade.

a train tunnel with sunlight showing through cracks in the overhang

A deeper look into the tunnel.

a skylight showing graffiti by train tracks

A light opening from Riverside Park (while I took the picture here, I actually overheard a group of people trying to figure out how to get into the tunnel)

graffiti by train tracks

These openings are sporadic the deeper you venture into the tunnel. I stopped here because it was too terrifying to go any further.

6 thoughts on “The Freedom Tunnel

  1. Wow! This is really interesting and something I don’t think I would have read anywhere else. I can see I would have missed out. Thanks for posting this and for taking such good pictures.

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