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WCBS 880 Interview: NYC Urban Explorer Steve Duncan

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New York City Sewer (credit: Steve Duncan / undercity.org)

New York City Sewer (credit: Steve Duncan / undercity.org)

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) - Steve Duncan is a man who has spent a lot of time in places most New Yorkers will never see.

WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman With Steve Duncan

In a video on his website, Duncan talks about making sure to avoid the third rail (and being run over by trains) while in the abandoned Bowery station on the J and Z line.

“In that video, we also visit the old City Hall station, which is now used by the no. 6 as the turnaround,” says Duncan.

“How would you describe what it is that you do?” asked WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

“I call it urban archaeology. It’s kind of a little grandiose, but basically I’m trying to find the past in the layers of New York,” he says.

“What do you usually find down there in these old subway tunnels and abandoned places?” asked Silverman.

“A lot of the places I go, to the uninitiated, they would be just boring and deep, dirty spaces, but because I do some research on the history, I connect these stories to them. I find them just kind of time capsules, you know, [a] way to step into the past and see something about how New York grew,” answered Duncan.

He even ran into some people who had been living in one of those tunnels for years.

“The crazy thing is some of the guys who live in tunnels in New York actually have better spaces than some of my friends’ apartments,” said Duncan. “It does show that New York is just really live. For the most part, no place is going to remain completely abandoned and forgotten for very long. Somebody’s going to find a use for it.”

Not only has he been down in the subways, but he has also climbed to the top of the Williamsburg Bridge.

“What’s the most interesting place you’ve seen in New York City?” asked Silverman.

“Well, one of the places that we visit in that little video is the old Canal Street sewer. That, to me, is really one of the most fascinating places I’ve been in terms of this connection with New York history and that used to be an above ground waterway that drained the very first freshwater supply of early New Amsterdam. That was the canal of Canal Street and got eventually covered over and turned into New York’s very first sewer,” said Duncan.

Duncan is often trying to avoid getting caught by authorities for trespassing.

“I think that so far the city has realized that I’m doing a kind of quirky kind of urban history, but that really what I’ve been doing has been motivated by an interest in the city and a love for it, not a desire to just run around and evade authorities,” he said.

To learn more about Duncan, check out his website.

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