Brooklyn’s Secret Bodies of Water


No. 8

Brooklyn’s Secret Bodies of Water

There’re The streets and sidewalks, and under them the gas lines, electrical wires, water mains, and fiber-optic cables—and then what? Seaside cities like ours aren’t naturally devoid of small waterways: dock your ship in 1492 near present-day New York and you’d encounter creeks, ponds, streams, springs, marshes and more that have long since been built over, drained or filled in, making the coastline the definitive boundary between water and dry land.

Except when the old water returns. Engineers and construction crews must be careful and consult old maps before they build, lest they flood their sites or, perhaps worse, cause future complications: when I attended elementary school, in Bay Ridge, the building had to close for a few days one winter because the boiler wasn’t working—it was sinking into a vestigial pond! Or so the story went.


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