Week of March 20–26, 2020
Riders this past week: 3,821
Rider miles this past week: 46,371
Every year, Hamptons Subway celebrates the birth of Ivan Kratz, the founder of the subway, his release from prison in 1938 and the “finding” of the fully built Hamptons subway system underground on March 20, 2006. That is this Friday this year.
No one knew there was a subway system under the Hamptons in 2006. But a company called Barnett Construction had been working for almost a year digging up a giant superfund site in back of the Sag Harbor post office when, one day, workman Alvin Barkley hit some dome-shaped object eight feet underground with his shovel. Trying to dig around it, he broke through it instead and discovered that 10 feet below was a subway platform, complete with turnstiles, tracks, token booths and stairways. The name SAG HARBOR was inlaid in a yellow brick wall.
Barkley called his boss and his boss called the mayor, who was Fred Friendly at that time. Lowering men and electric golf carts, courtesy of the Noyac Golf Club, it was soon learned that this subway station was part of a vast system of 24 stops from Westhampton Beach and Montauk.
Mayor Friendly swore everyone to secrecy until he could sort it out, and he soon learned that a New York City builder named Ivan Kratz, long gone from the scene, had made millions building the Lexington Avenue Subway for the City of New York by double-ordering the materials, billing the city and hiding the extra in a group of Staten Island warehouses.
Soon, the feds were on his trail. As he was friends with developer Carl Fisher—who in 1925 began building a summer resort at Montauk— he offered Fisher a free subway system. Fisher jumped at the chance, hiring Kratz for what he told the feds was a “sewer and drainage project.”
The work then proceeded for four years, at which time Fisher, just before announcing his development had a subway, lost his fortune in the Crash of 1929. Kratz was caught up in this too and went to jail, but never told anybody about a Hamptons Subway system. It remained unknown until that fateful day of March 20, 2006, when Alvin Barkley hit it with his shovel.
And the rest is history.
Some interesting facts about the system. Hamptons Subway has transported 13 million passengers since 2006, including thousands of celebrities. There are 24 stops on the system, but two of them remain unused. They are Montauk Manor and Montauk Surf Club. The Surf Club washed away in 1986, and the Manor is now a coop. The subway stop at Montauk is called “Montauk Beach,” because that is what Fisher named his soon-to-fail resort.
Kratz died in 1956 and his estate was willed equally to his 17 children, who could not agree on what to do with a hidden subway system. After 2006, it was auctioned off to a consortium of East End business owners and celebrities. Many of them have names like Carl Icahn, Jerry Seinfeld and Madonna. Of course, they get prominent placement in the Down in the Tube column in our Hamptons Subway Newsletter. They also have lifetime free passes.