Here is a story worthy of the literary bent of the author of the book A Burglar’s Guide to the City.” Geoff Manaugh has a blog, wittily framed as BLDGBLOG. The letters seem to read “blog-blog” until you look at it more closely. Manaugh’s building blog concerns itself a lot with the infrastructure of cities. Now Froma Harrop, in her This East Side blog (it used to be the Silkstocking blog), reports, in “Mystery of the East 64th Street Puddle,” on the mysterious origin of a puddle on the Upper East Side that never seems to go away. To be sure, if I lived on the UES I would never go away either.
Harrop springs a pop quiz on her readers:
The East 64th Street puddle is caused by:
- A broken fire hydrant
- A leaky underground pipe
- A washing machine dumping its rinse cycle onto the street
- None of the above.
And the answer (otherwise it would not be much of a mystery) is “None of the above.” It turns out that the puddle is in fact not a puddle at all but a spring that feeds the De Voor Mills stream – an underground aquifer that is one of many brooks and streams that were buried, paved over, possibly redirected but not snuffed out, and which survives under who knows how many levels of pavement. Calling Dr. Manaugh! Assistance on East 64th Street! Required to determine the layers of infrastructure that lie between the “spring” and the sidewalk! Its gutter never says adieu to the puddle, which many scorn as a source of mosquitoes.
When I lived in the Smith Building in downtown Providence, there was a puddle that frequented the rutty asphalt pavement just outside the front door. I used to enjoy taking pictures of the banking towers of Fulton Street (Kennedy Plaza) as reflected in the puddle. In 2011, the year after we moved out of the Smith, the “street,” really an alley, was paved over nicely, no doubt just to spite the departing architecture critic. This no doubt meant doomsday for the poor puddle, which probably did not have a hidden stream to assure its longevity, as the East 64th Street puddle has.