The New Yorker hotel’s giant red sign dominates West 34th Street, and the hotel is often photographed as a city landmark, mostly on account of its name. Yet the history of the building is largely unknown. The New Yorker is filled with untold secrets and forgotten stories, including (though by no means limited to) the beautiful Art Deco tunnel that ran from the lobby to Penn Station, which is still hidden underneath 34th Street.
Today, thousands of tourists and New Yorkers walk by the bustling corner of Eighth Avenue and 34 Street not knowing that this humble hotel hides a vast private power plant that could have powered a small city; a gleaming forgotten bank vault underneath the lobby; and an old dining room that came complete with a retractable ice floor, where diners could sip cocktails while watching a twirling glamorous dance show.
But underneath the dance floor lies something even more remarkable and secret. Through the basement, beyond a sealed door, the tunnel is filled with excess old hotel fittings, chairs, carpets, and beautiful Art Deco tiling. Walking through the tunnel takes you directly underneath 34th Street in a zig-zag shape. At the far end is a brass door that would lead today onto the platform near the E line, though the MTA blocked the other side off sometime in the 1960s.
A 1930s brochure in the hotel archives advertises the tunnel as “So Convenient!” Showing a map of midtown Manhattan, it proudly notes that one of the leading amenities of the hotel is a “private tunnel linking the New Yorker to Penn Station.” Drawn on the map is a depiction of an underground pass leading from the hotel to not just Penn Station, but as far as the Empire State Building.
Today, part of the New Yorker’s revitalization has been its embrace and celebration of its Art Deco heritage. Artifacts from a meticulously collected archive are on display in the lobby and in a small adjacent museum, where visitors can experience the golden era of the hotel, while listening to the big bands who once graced its ballrooms.
Know Before You Go
The tunnel is not open to the public but can be visited with a guide.