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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Explorer Sues National Geo Over a Tunnel

BROOKLYN (CN) - The man credited with discovering the world's oldest subway tunnel sued National Geographic Society, alleging it claim-jumped his discovery while pursuing a documentary.

Robert Diamond is known for discovering the Cobble Hill Tunnel, below Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, in 1980.

He then established the co-plaintiff Brooklyn Historic Railway Association and orchestrated tours of his discovery for more than 30 years by way of a manhole.

Diamond says he also found an 1830s steam locomotive behind a wall in the historic tunnel.

According to published reports, the tunnel was built in 1844 and landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Diamond became a local legend for his discovery.

He says his discoveries led to talks with the National Geographic Society about producing a documentary involving the train and the tunnels.

He says the project began in September of 2010 - then he was muscled out.

"While plaintiff Diamond fed defendants with technical information, defendants kept plaintiff in the dark about almost everything," Diamond says in the complaint. "There was a one-way flow of information."

Then the defendants "repeated requests that plaintiffs stop conducting tours in the tunnel," according to the complaint. And "out of the blue," the city transportation department banned him from his underground museum despite decades of unfettered access.

Diamond sued in 2011, but lost.

He says the sudden loss of access was "perplexing," as he never received a single safety violation in his operation's 30-year history.

Diamond says National Geographic then began a scheme of "claim jumping" on his project, and allowed its engineers to use his information about the site to "usurp" his project.

Diamond seeks $15 million in compensatory damages for misappropriation, unfair competition, negligence, breach of contract and infliction of mental distress.

He is represented by Gabriel Salem, in Kings County Supreme Court.

Also named as a defendant is NGHT, the National Geographic Society's television arm.

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