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Diamond in the rough! Tunnel legend needs city help to dig for history

Mrs. Transportation Commissioner, tear down this wall!

All that stands between the realization of one man’s dream and possibly the biggest urban archeological discovery in recent history is three feet of granite and the seal of approval from the city’s top transportation official.

Bob Diamond, the Flatbush legend who discovered a long-forgotten Long Island Rail Road tunnel running under Atlantic Avenue from Court Street to Hicks Street, says that National Geographic has signed up for an hour-long special on his subterranean obsession, and that it will pony up the money to knock down a wall in the tunnel and finally reveal either a pristine 19th-century locomotive or a Geraldo-like embarrassment.

Now, he just needs to cut through bureaucracy and get the green light from the Department of Transportation.

“We need a knight in shining armor,” said Diamond. “We need a city official to be the champion of digging up the steam locomotive, because there is going to be a lot of red tape.”

According to the rail aficionado, there are two options for finding out what lies on the other side of the 17-foot-tall wall: knock it down, or dig in from the street. Diamond says excavating from the street presents less of an engineering challenge and that it shouldn’t take too long.

“You could do it in two weekends,” Diamond said.

Still, convincing the city to cause any sort of traffic delays on Atlantic Avenue is a tough sell. And Diamond readily admits he doesn’t have the same type of political connections that he enjoyed when he first discovered the tunnel in 1981.

Back then, he said, “politicians were calling me up asking how they could help,” Diamond said. “Now, we have the money through National Geographic, but no politicians are returning my letters.”

Diamond has been talking about breaking down the wall for years, and last year proudly announced the deal with National Geographic. Now, Diamond doesn’t sound quite as confident, as the approval of the excavation depends in large part on transportation officials’ natural curiosity.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation, Scott Gastel, would not hint at the city’s thoughts.

“We would consider any [excavation] proposal made to the Department of Transportation,” Gastel said.

Bob Diamond’s next Atlantic Avenue Tunnel tour is on Sept. 12 at 1:15 pm. Meet at Atlantic Avenue and Court Street in Downtown. Call (718) 941-3160 for reservations. Visit www.brooklynrail.net for info.

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