"Looking for..." is a project in which I'm trying to discover New York City's lost streams, kills, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, burns, brakes, and springs, and I hope that YOU will help.
Originally developed as part of Conflux 2008, this is a collaborative project to try to peel back a bit of the present cityscape and to see the topography and hydrographic features that underlie the present-day city. For a sense of the rich variety of waterways that were characteristic of the New York region before the city was founded, take a look at the Viele Water Map from 1874.
During the Conflux Psychogeography Festival weekend (Sept 13-14th, 2008), I led walking tours in the area (around the conference venue at 536 LaGuardia Place, and near Washington Square Park), and we wandered around and try to find the old watercourses in the area-- or, at least, some clues and hints about that watercourses that once existed. I also handed out some information about New York City's lost streams, springs, and rivers in other parts of the city, so that Conflux visitors could know what to look for when they go into other parts of the city, and email it in as part of building this blog into a great resource.
So what exactly are we looking for? I'm not completely sure. There are clues and symbols throughout the city that reference watercourse that once existed or might still exist in some form. Many streams and springs have been diverted from their original course, routed through sewers or drains. I've been amazed already to find a handful of underground streams in NYC, covered over and turned into sewers as the city grew, that are large enough to wade or float. But I'm also looking for any hints or references to the old topography and hydrology of the city: street signs that reference old streams, stories of basements flooded by some forgotten spring, and photos, stories, maps, or anecdotes that relate. Come on my walking tours, email in your own posts, dig into your memories or your old photos -- and together we can peel back the centuries of urbanization and see what lies beneath.