Meet Steve. He describes himself as an urban historian. He tries to get into the parts of the city that we rarely see, walking through tunnels and scaling bridges. In the video I’ve included above he takes a videographer (Andrew Wonder) to some of his favorite underground places in New York. The first time I saw this I was enthralled. He seemed like an Indiana Jones of cities, interested and seeking a deeper understanding of what are cities are built upon. The most interesting part is that he is not alone. There are people who have lived in tunnel rooms for decades. There are other college students who adventure illegally on their weekends.
On one hand they seems brave and are seeing the history of cities that I only read about. On the other hand there’s something really uncomfortable about their discovery of this hidden world. About their exposure of it, especially of the people who don’t just visit between classes, NPR interviews and NYT articles, but live in those underground places. I love seeing the century-old bricks that show just how much history my city has. I don’t like the kind of awe he exhibits towards people who aren’t just doing this for fun. The NYT article points to some feeling of exploitation and I can’t help but agree. I think Steve respects these people and loves New York but somehow this feels less like urban history and more like urban entertainment. And that, it is very, very good at. (see more)