The Brownstone Next Door

If the brownstone next door seems awfully quiet, except for the beat cops parked out front, you may be living next to an unmarked emergency subway exit camouflaged as an average Brooklyn brownstone. The NYPD allowed an Associated Press reporter to visit the exit, which “leads to a grimy lit set of metal stairs that ascend past utility boxes and ventilation shafts into a bleak, windowless room with a door. Anyone opening the door would find themselves on a stoop — part of the facade replicating a town house.” The secret exit reflects the NYPD’s focus on keeping the subways safe from terrorists.[%comments]

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  1. Richard Lubbock says:

    Puzzled. Has the house been there forever? Or was it a subway stop and then they built a house over it? Surely the neighbours would have noticed.

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  2. Eric M. Jones says:

    Brownstones have more secrets than anyone could guess.

    I lived in one in the late 1960′s. I told the landlord, who lived in the “basement” and the first floor that it seemed a shame to be living in the basement when he owned this magnificient house. He gave me a tour of the “four basements”–First was the part under the stoop. Then he showed me the basement below the basement, actually a coal cellar and storage. Then the basement below that was where the furnace was…and more storage. Finally we descended below that to the “root cellar”, where the supports were massive tree stumps and the floor was dirt. I could hardly have imagined !

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  3. matthew says:

    yeah. keeping the subways safe from terrorists.

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  4. Uthor says:

    These have been around way before 9/11. They are there to camouflage the necessary service stations and structures needed to run a subway system without disturbing a neighborhood’s asthetic.

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  5. Brian says:

    It’s not really much of a “secret” is it? 30 seconds with google will get you the address and pictures.

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  6. MW says:

    “Among the adjustments the NYPD has made in recent years: Deploying roving teams of officers with heavy arms and dogs to sweep subway stations and trains; outfitting officers with pager-size radiation detectors to guard against a ‘dirty bomb’ nuclear device; conducting tens of thousands of random bag searches each year; and training officers in “hostile surveillance detection” – the ability to spot suspects casing the subway system.”

    If I wanted to bomb the subway, which of those actions might prevent me?
    Roving officers with heavy arms: I’m unlikely to meet any in the 60 seconds it takes to get from street level to where I detonate, and if I did, I’d just be one more face in the crowd to them.
    Dirty bomb detectors: Even if I passed one of these in my 60 seconds, they wouldn’t have time to notice and react, even if they could identify where the radiation was coming from.
    Tens of thousands of bag searches per year: and 5 million riders per day. If they do stop me on my bomb run, I’ll just detonate it in the security queue instead.
    Hostile surveillance detection: I can get all the surveillance I need just be being one of those 5 million riders. All I need to know is where and when the crowds are, and I don’t need to to sneak around in a trench coat for that. If by some chance they do stop me, it will only be after they’ve similarly stopped 1000 innocent people, so it won’t take much to convince them I’m clean.

    All this is doing is spending lots of money to give people a false sense of there being security. Its called “security theatre.”

    Better securing the emergency exits seems like pretty much the only useful thing they mention in the entire article.

    The article mentions Najibullah Zazi – but he was caught by standard intelligence and policing, not by any of the measures discussed in the article.

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  7. Lystraeus says:

    Interesting stuff.

    Eric M., many terrace houses in London have ‘secret’ living quarters. Pre-1950, each townhouse was commonly owned by one large family. Nowadays, most have been split into smaller ‘apartment’-type facilities sharing common hallways.

    My friends’ flat has 2 front doors, one of which is blocked by a fridge in the flat above. Late night binges are humourously visible through the frosted glass.

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  8. dryMAILman says:

    MW’s comments made for difficult reading. Does anybody have any better ideas?

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