Daylighting and Tibbetts Brook - mapping a route

Daylighting streams means taking the waterflow out of an underground sewer, and instead turning it back into an above-ground streamflow, reducing how often the sewers overflow and also creating a pretty little stream!!

I say “turning it BACK” into an above-ground stream because very often— almost always— mainline sewers and storm drains follow very closely the historic drainage routes or stream routes in that region. This is because our underground infrastructure generally follows surface topography, and topography has a strong ability to endure despite urban development.

However, things do change— valleys are filled and hills or bumps are leveled over time— and so when you think about daylighting a stream or river, you have to make sure that your idea for a route DOES actually flow downhill the entire way! Also, because the waterflow is CURRENTLY underground, often you have to find a way to keep it flowing downhill even though the place you want to start from might be BELOW the level of the surrounding landscape.

This is the case for Tibbetts Brook in the bronx, which currently heads into a big sewer tunnel from a small lake in Van Cortlandt Park. (It also flows above-ground north of the bronx.)

The most-often-proposed route for daylighting is along the abandoned rail line next to a below-grade highway. I think this is too out-of-the-way, and i’d love to see the brook flowing down the center of Broadway in the bronx— underneath the elevated subway lines— or down Tibbetts Ave a couple blocks west of Broadway. See below for brief comparison of elevation issues/non-issues for both routes.

My proposed route: along Tibbetts Ave and/or along Broadway. See image below for screenshot of map with elevation profile of route along Tibbetts Ave.
http://bit.ly/2oAY7MQ

1.08 miles, starts from Tibbet and W 240th St

  • Has 3 “uphill” moments on this profile, but only at 1 foot each time-from 19 to 20 feet, from 19 to 20 feet, and from 14 to 15 feet

  • Starting elevation approx 24 feet

 Screenshot of a map of a potential route for the daylighting of Tibbetts Brook, with elevation profile shown. Elevation profile is of course an important- even the most important- aspect of creating a workable above-ground stream, because water always likes to flow downhill.

Screenshot of a map of a potential route for the daylighting of Tibbetts Brook, with elevation profile shown. Elevation profile is of course an important- even the most important- aspect of creating a workable above-ground stream, because water always likes to flow downhill.

CURRENTLY PROPOSED ROUTE - along old rail line

http://bit.ly/2oyhNRs



Details on this route, taken from reviewing the elevation profile

(when i first made these maps, i used a convenient website that maps your running route, specifically because it automatically showed elevation profiles. Then they updated their website and now I can’t find the elevation profile. Google Earth does offer elevation profile options as well as do some websites using google maps api.)

RAIL LINE ROUTE:

  • 1.51 miles, starts from south edge of Van Cortlandt Lake in this diagram, at elevation of 20 feet (currently water flows out view flume in a north-west direction from this end of the lake, so this is changing the route of the water slightly.)

  • NOTE: there is currently some elevation RISE in all directions from Van Cortlandt Lake, approx from 20 feet altitude at lake to about 30 feet at Broadway (west edge of park) and along south edge of park. However, this elevation map might be inaccurate, as the old rail line follows a valley from park and to the Major Deegan.

  • [Note: review this area via walking and determine if actual land is downsloping. Elevation here could be from LIDAR data which would generalize the elevation after measurements of the tops of trees, and might not have included valley area.]

Mole People bibliography

Some books/resources related to "Mole People" 

Matthew O'Brien Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas (Huntington Press, 2007)

Margaret Morton 'The Tunnel: The Underground Homeless Of New York City' (Yale University Press, 1996) [Photo book]

Jennifer Toth 'The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City' (Chicago Review Press, 1993)



A vaguely interesting side-note, from Alex Burns as he wrote about the 1980s/1990s:
"Some cultural analysts saw the 'Mole People' as an alternative society model, a critique of liberal progress doctrines. Douglas Rushkoff's 'Cyberia: Life In The Trenches Of Cyberspace' (Harper SanFrancisco, 1994) included the 'Mole People' in its description of fringe communities. 'Mole People' became a description of the lowest caste within emerging New Media industries."
-Alex Burns, from: http://old.disinfo.com/archive/pages/dossier/id350/pg1/ 

LIFE Magazine Nov 7 1949 on "Underground New York"

Great mid-century article on Underground New York in LIFE magazine of Nov 7, 1949! (pages 80-90.) Thanks very much to Alexis Jones for mentioning this to me. The end of the article-- see final picture caption-- says of "Manhattan subwayfarers" that "they are the foremost troglodytes." Awesome!

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=LlIEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA80&pg=PA81#v=onepage&q&f=false

Cristina Iglesias - Lost Rivers public art

I'm a fan of Cristina Iglesias since hearing about her 2017 installation in London referencing the lost Walbrook stream. (It's called the "Walbrook" or "Wallbrook" because back when London was much smaller and had walls around it, this stream was the only waterway that crossed under the city walls on its way to the Thames; nowadays it is contained within the London Bridge Sewer.)

Here is the part of her site on her "rivers and public space" projects:
http://cristinaiglesias.com/rivers-and-public-space/

Daylighting in NYC presentation

A presentation on the potentials for daylighting of historic streams in NYC, with my suggestions for the best sites to consider, that I put together in 2013. Includes in the first section a summary of the most important benefits of daylighting of urban streams, at least in my own analysis.

 

Minetta Brook Research

The results of my attempt to determine exactly where the historic Minetta Brook is today, mapping the sewer network within the historic watershed with GIS. (With Liz Barry.) Below are the graphics from our presentation, and below that is an historical summary.

Below - "Modeling Minetta Brook" - Graphics


Below - "Modeling Minetta Brook" - Paper

Undercity Info Sheet: Sawmill River, Yonkers NY

A one-page info sheet on the Sawmill River in Yonkers, NY

Note-- in the years since I first made up this info sheet, the city of Yonkers has daylighted the final portion of the Sawmill River. It is now the centerpiece of a wonderful little town plaza and city park, with the above-ground stream visible before flowing into the Hudson. (This is Larkin Plaza, right near the Yonkers Metro-North station.)

I made these info sheets originally just as a way to tell people about the old streams and the sewers that have replaced them in NYC. I thought it was funny, for information about old streams that no longer existed, to present it as a flyer for a tour that didn't actually exist either. It was only a few years later than I began to develop actual walking tours where I would take people above-ground along the old routes of these streams. We only walk above-ground, but we peer down a few manhole covers along the way so that we can actually see the water flowing below (which is nowadays a mixture of natural groundwater and combined sewage together).

Undercity Info Sheet: Tibbetts Brook, Bronx, NY

The historic Tibbetts Brook flows from just north of New York City into the Bronx, where part of it has become the lake in Van Cortlandt Park (it was originally a millpond, before the city bought the land to turn into a park). Today it flows into the combined sewer system just south of the park. 

The New York City Parks Department, as well as local groups, have made some suggestions for daylighting this stream so that the significant waterflow it represents will be taken out of NYC's overburdened sewer system. I think that this is both a great idea and also a very realistic idea, as the terrain-- the topography of the landscape, the amount of available land, etc-- make it quite possible to re-create the historic waterway aboveground once again. It will cost a lot of money, of course, but I expect that this is the first significant daylighting project that will be achieved within NYC.

Note - I made these info sheets originally just as a way to tell people about the old streams and the sewers that have replaced them in NYC. I thought it was funny, for information about old streams that no longer existed, to present it as a flyer for a tour that didn't actually exist either. It was only a few years later than I began to develop actual walking tours where I would take people above-ground along the old routes of these streams. We only walk above-ground, but we peer down a few manhole covers along the way so that we can actually see the water flowing below (which is nowadays a mixture of natural groundwater and combined sewage together).

Undercity Info Sheet: Canal St Sewer

A one-page info sheet on the Canal Street Sewer, which was originally an above-ground drainage route leading from the old Collect Pond to the Hudson River. (First a meandering and marshy natural drainage route from the spring-fed Collect Pond; then it became a man-made drainage ditch after European colonists began to reshape the landscape.) 

I made these info sheets originally just as a way to tell people about the old streams and the sewers that have replaced them in NYC. I thought it was funny, for information about old streams that no longer existed, to present it as a flyer for a tour that didn't actually exist either. It was only a few years later than I began to develop actual walking tours where I would take people above-ground along the old routes of these streams. We only walk above-ground, but we peer down a few manhole covers along the way so that we can actually see the water flowing below (which is nowadays a mixture of natural groundwater and combined sewage together).

Undercity Info Sheet: Sunswick Creek

A one-page info sheet on the old Sunsick Creek in Queens, NY, now a mainline sewer.

I made these info sheets originally just as a way to tell people about the old streams and the sewers that have replaced them in NYC. I thought it was funny, for information about old streams that no longer existed, to present it as a flyer for a tour that didn't actually exist either. It was only a few years later than I began to develop actual walking tours where I would take people above-ground along the old routes of these streams. We only walk above-ground, but we peer down a few manhole covers along the way so that we can actually see the water flowing below (which is nowadays a mixture of natural groundwater and combined sewage together).

Undercity Info Sheet: Mill Brook/First Stream

First Stream in Newark was a vital waterway for the founding of the city; it was also known as Mill Brook because it was originally used to power a watermill. It is now completely underground and integrated with the 19th-century combined sewer system, although overflows still have an outlet at the historic mouth of the stream into the Passaic River.

I made these info sheets originally just as a way to tell people about the old streams and the sewers that have replaced them in NYC. I thought it was funny, for information about old streams that no longer existed, to present it as a flyer for a tour that didn't actually exist either. It was only a few years later than I began to develop actual walking tours where I would take people above-ground along the old routes of these streams. We only walk above-ground, but we peer down a few manhole covers along the way so that we can actually see the water flowing below (which is nowadays a mixture of natural groundwater and combined sewage together).