Monday, February 25, 2013

Underneath A Highway

Sometimes, when you think you've seen it all, something weird will present itself and surprise you. I remember walking along the shore near this highway, and the sun was angled in a manner that allowed me to peer inside the highway's interior. Since I saw graffiti, I knew that it was accessible at one point.

Then, driving by one day, I discovered that the padlocked door had been blasted open, making this spot, which appears to have been untouched since the late 90s, available to explore.

Bringing a flashlight would have made this site much nicer. Instead, I had to jump over puddles of indecipherable depth to prevent my shoes from being sucked into the mud. As I went further down the cavernous space, the walls got lower and lower until I was practically squatting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Creedmoor Psychiatric Center

     In the abandoned Kings Park Psychiatric Center, the iconic numbers are 93; denoting the largest and most interesting abandonment there. Here at Creedmoor in Queens, our target was Building 25, vacant for no less than thirty years. My comrade and I walked to the Creedmoor campus, which is still active, in search of this abandonment, whose existence I never knew of prior to this trip.

     We had to circle the building very thoroughly to find an entry point. Some of the plywood boards were slightly peeled back, but, not wanting to force entry, we kept walking around. Eventually, when I thought we would have to compromise by climbing up to the second floor and squeezing in through a window, we got in through the basement.

     As the building was built around the Cold War era, the basement boasted a Fallout Shelter with dusty tunnels (whose shapes resembled that of storm drains) that appeared to connect to the other active buildings. We would have explored these tunnels further but daylight was fast fading, and Winter is not one to flaunt her sunshine.

The basement boasted a broken elevator shaft, a boiler room, a room where laundry machines lay side by side, and a miniature "jail cell" for patients, presumably the rowdiest ones. This cell was topped with barbed wire, and it must have been very demoralizing for any patient to be locked in this cool dark enclosure.

After stumbling around through the darkness for some minutes, my partner and I located the stairs and saw some of the sights that Creedmoor's upper floors had to offer.

Though I have heard rumors of a squatter living in this building, we did not encounter him. Perhaps he was hiding from us, because we did encounter some strange noises while we were there. Also, the emptied liquor bottles seemed to be a giveaway. Or perhaps it is the residents from the active wards coming out to party at night? (Didn't that happen in the 1999 film Girl Interrupted? I feel 
like it did but it has been too long since I have seen it.)

The fourth floor contained an excessive amount of... well it could have been dirt or the accumulated pigeon filth of the years, but I'm praying that my shoes were sucked in by the former.

As is frequently the case with psychiatric centers, there are often soothing images of flora painted in a tranquil setting on the walls. Their paint slowly peels as the building ages.

Our last thirty minutes of daylight consisted of us running around the top floor, trying to find a way into the roof. My eyes keenly shot everywhere before finally hitting their target: a hatch, which appeared to lead to the top. We grabbed a ladder from the lower floor but it was too wide to swing up the stairs, so instead we grabbed a bedframe and clattered it noisily up (not stealthy at all). We propped this bedframe's shell against the wall, climbed up, and propped the wooden hatch open with a metallic table leg. Unfortunately, the hatch didn't even lead to the roof! It only led to a hollow attic.

Defeated, we left, but not before taking some more pictures first. The sun set and we were out, Subway sandwiches as our consolation prize. Perhaps another date with Building 25 will reveal the elusive rooftop? Hmm...

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Gowanus Batcave

Oh, Gowanus Batcave, squatter's dream, sour taste of rusted metal lingering on my tongue!

Cleared of your messy remnants which have been littered, strewn across the ground, the workers have not yet peeled off your layers of dirt, grime, graffiti and history.

Looming in the distance, massive, visible from the bridge, inviting, beckoning, tempting.

     My first explore of the New Year, once my bronchitis finally cleared up, was the Gowanus Batcave. My partner and I stared at it from across the canal when we noticed a group of teenagers on the other side of the bridge, eyes fixed on the same prize. I rushed to them and slid a cautious leg over the silver spikes of the fence, telling them, "same idea." With a relieved laugh, they followed, and we wrapped ourselves around another fence lined with razor wire.

We spent a good while circling the building searching for an entry before finally giving in and constructing our own. Though we didn't know each other, we both had the same goal in mind. This is what led to our most sketchy entry point ever. We began stacking heavy concrete blocks (it took two people to lift one of those gray blocks), and using these blocks as a boost, climbed up a utility cable hanging out of the side of the second floor window.

After this, we found a rope and tied it around the windowsill (which was surprisingly sturdy for a building that had been abandoned for so long), knotted it, and climbed up and in.

The Batcave is also known by a less alluring (and more official) name: The Rapid Transit Central Power House. This property used to power trains. By its current state, being completely cleared out and under renovation, I couldn't discern its original purpose. Back in the day, its boilers burned coal to provide power to trains, however, when this technology became outdated the plant became abandoned.

During a period of time in the early 2000s, a slew of squatters claimed their residence in this space, and hypodermic needles had piled up until the squatters were kicked out in 2006. Previous intrusions by others revealed random scraps of litter which would inform visitors that this was a person's hideout; now it is being emptied, replaced with cinderblocks, steel pillars and electrical wires.

     Once people knew this site was open, hipsters and residents alike flocked to it instantly, and word spread overwhelmingly quickly. I must have seen at least five other people come along during our visit, but I have great doubts that our original entry method is still present. After enjoying a purple-grapefruit drenched sunset from the rooftop, my partner and I parted ways.