In 1993, Jennifer Toth horrified the world with her book The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City. The work detailed the lives of the homeless citizens who’d established communities in the subway and railroad tunnels beneath the streets of New York. Though criticism of the validity of some of Toth’s claims ran rampant following her book’s release, over the years various other sources have indeed found many people—one documentary estimated as many as 6,000—living illegally and dangerously in the subway tunnels.
New York City has been trying to get rid of the mole people for decades now, but video footage shot by documentarian Andrew Wonder in 2010 and released last year confirms that there are still homeless living in the city’s subway tunnels. Some of them have been down there for as long as 10 years. This in mind, it makes sense to ask two gruesome but necessary questions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Did all of the so-called mole people escape? And if not, how long will it take for MTA workers to find their bodies?
Owing to the fact that there were some recorded instances of homeless people refusing to take cover in the lead-up to this week’s storm, it’s likely the answer to the first question is: No, not all of the mole people did get out of the tunnels (might some of them not even have known a storm was coming?). As for the second question, seeing the MTA’s weak defenses against subway flooding, and all the damage that wrought, we have to assume that if anyone was down there and drowned, they won’t be discovered for weeks. Hurricane Sandy: The hell that keeps on giving.