Hidden Urban Waters of 2015

In journalism, the week of December 31 is often described as the slowest news week of the year. Editors and reporters fill in the blank spaces of newspapers with year in review articles, in case you forgot or missed the stories that left their impact on history.

On the topic of my book, cities around the world are rediscovering their hidden waters through art, architecture and ambitious daylighting projects. Below is a sampling of such stories.

Guangzhou, China

year 1

The Donghao Chung, once an ancient moat, and later a sewer, has been daylighted and transformed into a linear park reminiscent of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. Like its Korean counterpart, the stream spent much of the past century hidden beneath the surface, with a busy roadway running atop its course.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

year 2

The capital city of the once-troubled region is named after the Farset River, which mostly runs beneath the city’s streets. A BBC documentary earlier this year reported on how the river impacted the city’s development over the centuries. As the Farset flows through Belfast’s stream of consciousness, perhaps soon it will again return to the surface.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

year 6

Urban explorers Adriano Sampaio and Ramon Bonzi are using old maps to trace the courses of their city’s numerous buried streams. Their work follows a similar project titled Rios e Ruas (Rivers and Roads), created by geographer and water systems specialist Luiz de Campos and architect José Bueno. Nearly 300 streams have been identified in the crowded and sprawling metropolis.

Los Angeles

year 9

This month, the $1.3 billion plan to restore a portion of the Los Angeles River received approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an important step on the project’s path towards congressional review. It is perhaps the best known neglected urban waterway in the country, sharing its name with the great city, but not its beauty. This video posted by Mayor Eric Garcetti tells the river’s story.

Hartford, Connecticut

year 3

Prior to 1940, the capital city of Connecticut had the Park River flowing on the southern side of its downtown. Where Dutch colonists established a fort and Mark Twain lived, the river’s course was covered with highways and parking lots. Recognizing the value of the stream to the city’s culture and environment, there is a growing momentum to restore Park River to the surface. Supporters must first overcome concerns about the high cost of the project.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

year 4

Across the harbor from the provincial capital of Halifax is its sister city of Dartmouth, where Mill Lane and Canal Street mark the buried course of Saw Mill River. Inspired by the city of Yonkers in New York, which its daylighting its own river of the same name, some residents of Dartmouth would like to see their Saw Mill River restored to the surface. A Tim Horton’s restaurant built on the stream bed will not be affected by the restoration design.

Yonkers, New York

year 5

The fourth largest city in the state of New York and neighbor of the Big Apple to its south, the city of Yonkers has the most cited example of stream restoration in the United States. In 2011, a two block section of the stream was restored to the surface, replacing a parking lot that covered it for the preceding half century. The project is now in its second phase, which involves daylighting the section flowing beneath the Mill Street courtyard.

Here at Home

Collect Pond 2

Collect Pond Park opened to the public, though the pool marking the pond’s location has yet to be filled.

year 8

The 182nd Street Dam on the Bronx River had its fish passage completed in April. First constructed in 1639, the dam separates the freshwater portion of the river, from its brackish, or tidal section further south. The fish passage allows the stream’s alewife and blueback herring to swim over the East 182nd Street Dam to access 12 acres of spawning and rearing habitat. This fish passage is the first of three planned on the Bronx River within the city limits.

year 7

The city issued a request for bid proposals on daylighting a section of Tibbetts Brook that is currently underground between Van Cortlandt Park and Harlem River. Among the hidden streams of the western Bronx, Tibbetts Brook appears to be the most realistic candidate for restoration as its proposed path runs along an abandoned railroad line that could be transformed into a linear park with a stream.


I contributed to the public discussion of New York City’s hidden urban waters this past year with articles on Forgotten-NY about Mott Haven Canal in the south Bronx, Ladies’ Pond in Central Park, and the city’s last human-operated drawbridge at Lemon Creek on Staten Island.

With my book, Hidden Waters of New York City going to print in March 2016, the conversation about hidden urban streams is about to get much livelier in my hometown. Here’s to a productive year ahead!


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