Working Harbor: Tunnels


There are thirteen tunnels under the East River. Two for vehicular traffic: The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Queens-Midtown Tunnel, one for inter-city and commuter railroad traffic connecting to Penn Station and 10 for subway traffic.



Steinway Tubes

Steinway Tubes

The remarkable William Steinway, manufacturer of pianos and creator of the Steinway settlement on the waterfront, was deeply committed to transportation. He designed the New York City subway network and suggested the rail tunnel from New Jersey to Long Island decades before the Pennsylvania railroad. The “Steinway Tubes,” pictured here, opened in 1915, nearly 20 years after they were stopped by his untimely death.


Penn Tubes
(Courtesy Bob Stonehill)

Penn Tubes

On September 8, 1910, the railroad tunnels under the East River from Hunters Point to midtown Manhattan opened. Newly electrified trains from Long Island or New England would soon run under the East River into Pennsylvania Station. Nearly one hundred years later, a second rail tunnel under the river readies service to Grand Central Terminal. (Courtesy Bob Stonehill)


Queens-Midtown Tunnel Tollbooth

Queens-Midtown Tunnel

The Queens-Midtown Tunnel is a double tunnel under the East River. It links 36th Street in Manhattan with the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City. It was completed in 1940.

Ventilation towers with large, computer controlled, fans at either end of the tunnel provide a complete change of air every minute and a half.

Every spring, the circus moves animals through the tunnel to perform at Madison Square Garden.

Elephants in the Queens
E-ZPass Lane





A subway tunnel to Brooklyn

Subway Tunnels

The subway reached Brooklyn on January 9, 1908 winning a race with the PATH tubes to New Jersey by one month. Although the cast iron rings look solid, a worker was sucked through the roof during a ‘blow-out’ in 1905. Miraculously, he survived being pulled through the riverbed and being shot to the surface where the astonished crew of a tug picked him up.

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