Buried beneath the city of Rochester lies the long forgotten and decaying remnants of the former Rochester subway system, which stretched across the once thriving city. Once teeming with commuters, it now houses Rochester’s homeless and destitute within its leaking and crumbling structure. The only lighting comes from the aqueduct’s arches and small amounts of light where water or stress has created openings. Where this light falls however lies an unearthed treasure few see, graffiti artists have overtaken the walls and clearings left behind by the demise of the subway. Just behind the War Memorial an entrance way into the former subway tunnel is exposed and is even complete with a small walking platform, presumably placed there by the city to avoid any nasty spills down into the Genesee River raging below. And this is where we begin our excursion into the depths and bowels of the Flour City.
A short jump from the top of the Broad St. entrance way is where most of the work is to be found, and from our observations the best of it at that. On our first visit we found the place mostly empty, save the one homeless man we found making his way back home, which served to allow us a great opportunity to really examine the walls and overhangs for their ornate and sprawling works. Here the old Broad St. Aqueduct opens out and allows for light to flood the tunnel on either side, illuminating the sides of the former track and giving the willing participant ample light to tag wherever he can reach. While some of the work may be just graffiti, and bad graffiti if anything, some of the work done is nothing short of artwork, worthy to be placed in any museum on the surface-world. While some in the city, including the city government, see the tunnels as a blight requiring the destruction of the tunnel and these immense works of art, some have found these tunnels and the treasure they hold to be a matter of culture and distinction.
While the tunnels are eroding, covered with graffiti and littered with refuse from above, the city of Rochester itself faces the same problems as the former rail system. Above in the light of day the city itself lays crumbling and littered with works of art hidden away beneath its quickly eroding exterior. And like the subway Rochester must embrace these works of art as just that, works of art deserving of viewership and respect.