5. Socony-Mobil Building tunnel

one Vanderbilt tunnel
Photograph courtesy of Stantec.

Last year, a long-shuttered tunnel connecting Grand Central to the Socony-Mobil Building reopened to the public The reopening and renovation of this subterranean pedestrian pathway was part of a $220 million transit improvement project completed in conjunction with the construction of One Vanderbilt. Now a New York City Landmark, the Socony-Mobil building at 150 E. 42nd Street was built between 1954 and 1956. The tunnel was completed in 1955 and appears to have closed in 1991. According to a New York Times article, the 215-foot route starts “twenty feet inside the new skyscraper,” then “bends northwest from the southeast corner of Lexington and 42nd Street to a point a little south of center in Forty Second.” It then continued west for 120 feet where it met the Chanin Building passageway then bent toward the Commodore Hotel, now the Grand Hyatt.

Construction of the passageway was rather challenging since work was complicated by the busy streets above and the mess of utilities underground. A water main that stretched directly across the tunnel’s path had to be looped over the passageway’s roof. Workers also had to carefully avoid telephone wires, mail tubes, gas mains, and power cables. The reopening of this historic passageway comes with the addition of two street-level subway entrances and a new entrance to the 42 Street subway station on the southeast corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.