The legend of the West Side Cow Tunnels has long been a part of urban myth, repeated by someone who heard, but never from someone who knew. The story goes that sometime in the 1870s, the need to alleviate cattle traffic in the streets resulted in the creation of an underground ″Cow Tunnel″ beneath 12th Avenue and 34th Street.
From there the stories fluctuate wildly. Everything from where the tunnels are — some people put the location of the tunnels on Joralemon Street — to what exactly the tunnels were made of — with oak, steel, and fieldstone all being candidates.
One of the only published accounts of the tunnels comes from an old article from the Tribeca Tribune in June of 1997, which follows the wild goose chase of a Con Edison employee as he tracked the vague leads of his friends who knew a friend who saw the tunnels. In the end, the myth of the West Side Cow Tunnels seemed to be just another urban fancy.
That is, until 2004, when hints of the legendary Cow Tunnels resurfaced. An archeological report from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation mentioned underground ″Cattle Tunnels″ at 34th Street and 38th Street. The tunnels are believed to have been built for the West Side slaughterhouses. According to the New York Times, a report from 1847 cites cattle being herded to their deaths underground along 34th and 35th Streets, as well as 12th Avenue. Unfortunately, if the tunnels are still there, they may be lost under the Javits Center.
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