A simmering conflict between the FDNY, DOT and Robert Diamond, the main force behind the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association and the Atlantic Ave. tunnel tours boiled over this afternoon as DOT revoked Diamond’s permission to conduct tours. Citing fire safety concerns brought to light by recent FDNY investigations, DOT announced its decision in a letter to Diamond at 4:45 p.m. this afternoon.
The recent battle between the city and Diamond started around 10 days ago when the Fire Department forced him to cancel a movie screening inside the tunnel. Rooftop Films had planned to air a few films inside the tunnel as they had done in August, and National Geographic was set to film inside the tunnel. Due to concerns over ventilation and the space available for entrances and exits into and out of the tunnel, the FDNY sent a letter to DOT expressing its safety concerns, and today, DOT pulled the plug on the tours.
Diamond, who has been conducting tours inside the 165-year-old tunnel since the early 1980s, was apoplectic. FDNY has urged him to build a second entrance to the tunnel, but for years, DOT has dragged its feet on granting permission to open another entrance to a few feet further down Atlantic Ave. For now, then, the tours will stop at Diamond figures out his next move. He does not have kind words for the city.
“This entire debacle has occured because the City of New York for the past 30 years has failed to address the status of this historical treasure,” he said to me. “The City, especially DOT, has ignored my pleadings for the past 30 years to come together and formulate a policy for the preservation and utilization of this remarkable historical resource. Now that the Bloomberg Administration’s ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude towards historic treasures has been exposed for all to see, I hope the next city administration, which is only around the corner, will have more common sense than to destroy a proven tourist attaction and historical resource.”