19. The Freedom Tunnel
Located underneath Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, the Freedom Tunnel is one of the city’s most frequented off-limits abandoned places. According to Will Ellis’ book Abandoned NYC, the Freedom Tunnel was first constructed as part of Robert Moses‘ Westside Improvement Project to address the problem of “Death Avenue,” a ground-level railroad track responsible for the deaths of several pedestrians. However, once the tunnel was completed, the rise of trucking made the track largely obsolete.
Many homeless people discovered the abandoned area by the mid-1970s, and a hundred resided there through the ’80s. However, in the 1990s Amtrak began laying new track, and many squatting there were forcibly removed by the NYPD in 1996. Today, the tunnels are remarkably clean, with the only signs of life from the graffiti on the walls. The graffiti of artist Chris Pape, nicknamed “Freedom” is the namesake for the tunnel. His graffiti recreated the works of Goya and Michelangelo and remained on the walls for several decades before Amtrak began to paint over it in 2009.