Minetta Creek’s parks, Manhattan


I’ve been reluctant to write too much online about Manhattan’s Minetta Creek as it is certainly the least forgotten of the city’s hidden waterways. It flows entirely under the surface these days from source to mouth, but above the surface there are many items that keep its memory alive.


The all-but-invisible Minetta Brook was flowing in the city’s public consciousness nearly as soon as it was buried, appearing in local folklore, books, poems, magazines, and street names. Earlier this week I stumbled on a walking tour of Minetta Street where the guide allowed me to say a few words about its namesake stream.

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Tank Stream, Sydney

This week, New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver is visiting Sydney, Australia for City Talks on Greening Global Cities, an urban planning conference. The city is the largest and most populated on the continent-country, built on a series of peninsulas facing the Parramatta River. At the head of each bay or cove separating the peninsulas were creeks, many of which have been lost to urbanization and only recently reemerging in the public imagination.

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One such example is Tank Stream, which drained into Sydney Cove, not far from city’s iconic bridge and opera house.  Continue reading

Black History in Hidden Streams

To mark Martin Luther King Day, there are four streams in Manhattan that relate to black history in New York City. Chronologically, they cover more than three centuries from the arrival of the first Angolan and Congolese slaves in New Amsterdam in 1626, to the civil rights period in Harlem.

On the subject of black history and rivers, perhaps no poem is as evocative of the connection as Langston Hughes‘ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” The composition speaks of how some of the world’s major streams have enriched the soul of the African American.

Hughes wrote that the poem came to his mind around 1920 when he was on a boat heading down the Mississippi. Continue reading

Watering Holes: Pubs named for Hidden Streams

Perhaps it is their desire to connect to a distant past and to appear as established neighborhood institutions that new pubs and taverns in New York City choose to adopt the names of long-buried streams as their names. Perhaps there’s an unwritten tradition in pub naming that results in the revival of certain streams on the map.

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Here are a few New York City watering holes named after… long-buried watering holes. Continue reading

Hello From the Other Side… of the River

You may have noticed that in yesterday’s post, the hyperlink for River Lea, the forgotten stream in London, England, links to a song by top-selling vocalist Adele.

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She represents a long tradition of artists inspired by hidden urban streams. Here in New York City, there are two streams that appear in poetry which I would like to share, along with a few recent examples. Continue reading

Robert Frost’s Hidden Waters

Although my book was published in a time when cities around the world are rediscovering their hidden streams, in truth lost urban streams inspired explorers, historians, architects and poets for time immemorial. Decades before Joni Mitchell composed, and later the Counting Crows sang about a parking lot paved atop paradise, poet Robert Frost composed an urban explorer’s paean to a lost urban stream.

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