When sociologist Jennifer Toth ventured into the tunnels, in search of the near mythical Mole People, she expected to find a nightmare world of drug addiction, alcoholism and the very dregs of society.
She found them alright, but she also encountered teachers, social workers and other professionals. They were living testimony to the truism that many of us are only three or four pay-packets away from destitution.
She also discovered a young Puerto Rican family, terrified of being deported, if they resided above. The children were in their school uniforms. The father worked in construction. The mother did her best to keep a filthy environment clean and healthy. They had fled a nice, suburban apartment, when a neighbor learned that they were undocumented.
There was an enclave of children in a concealed room beneath a central station. It had once been a cellar but, for whatever reason, the doors had been bricked up. They'd found a wall with a hole in it for an entrance. Traumatized runaways huddled together; one tiny boy was practically paralyzed with fear, after witnessing his mother's murder.
Meanwhile, just one tunnel along, a roving gang of assassins would take anyone out for cash.
These are just some of the stories that she revealed in her book, The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City.