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Joseph Brennan, a New York rail buff, wrote an extensive and detailed critique in 1996, exposing many discrepancies in Toth’s reporting, such as places that couldn’t exist, exaggerated numbers and contradictory claims.

He is bipolar and suffers from major substance dependence. An instant hit, it chronicled the organization of those underground societies, describing compounds of several thousands where babies were born and regular lives were lived, with elected officials, hot water and even electricity.

This is where they live, deep into the depths of the city, way underground, lying in the dirt. Regular police ain’t bothering me, but Amtrak, they can be nasty.” Jon says he did prison time. A 1990 article by John Tierney was the earliest to outline the phenomenon, looking at people living in an abandoned train tunnel beneath Riverside Park, along the banks of the Hudson River. In 1993, Jennifer Toth published her essay “The Mole People,” documenting hidden communities residing in a network of forsaken caverns, holes and shafts across Manhattan.

“Jon,” I repeat, and he appears, his head cautiously peaking up from his house, a relieved smile on his face when he sees me. I can see rats scouring for food and drinking from brown puddles in the tracks ballast. The city growls over my head — a distant growl muffled by the concrete, almost a snarl, like something cold and foul spreading over the long stretches of stained walls, like a dark and wild beast curling up around me and breathing on my neck. * * * Stories about underground dwellers were already flourishing when the first New York City subway line opened in 1904.

Adams pointed out unverifiable or incorrect facts in Toth’s work, and her skepticism peaked during her interview of Cindy Fletcher, a former tunnel dweller who challenged important points of the narration.

“I’m not saying the book is not true, I just never experienced the things [she] said she saw,” Fletcher explained to Adams.

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