Friday, July 20, 2007
What Lies Beneath Your Feet
New York may be the greatest city on Earth, but living here does have its downsides. Many of you may have heard about the disaster in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. According to news reports, a steam pipe beneath Lexington Avenue exploded after cool water from a rainstorm trickled down from the street above. The destruction was unbelievable. For over an hour, a geyser of mud and searing-hot steam shot past the upper floors of nearby skyscrapers. When it was finally stopped, workers discovered a giant crater in the middle of the street, which had swallowed an entire tow-truck. (See above.)
It wasn't long ago that I worked in one of the buildings across from the explosion, and I'm happy to report that none of my former co-workers were injured. More than forty other people weren't quite as lucky.
How could this happen? As anyone who's read Kiki Strike knows, New York City is hollow. And many of the tunnels, pipes, and power lines that lie underneath the asphalt are old and decaying. This wasn't the first time something like this has happened, and unfortunately it probably won't be the last.
So what exactly is down there? Take the National Geographic tour of the city's subterranean world. (No, they don't let you visit the Shadow City, which lies deeper than the subway tracks. But it's interesting nonetheless.) For those who'd like to learn more about what goes on in the city's underground, check out Kate Ascher's The Works, one of my favorite books of all time.