Subterranean Homesick Streams

This Elastic City commissioned walk traces the downtown shoreline of what was Haarlem Creek or Montagna’s Creek depending on which historical figures you ask. This body of water, the largest stream on Manhattan, played a big part in the daily life of the area both pre and post European invasion.The point of the walk was to contrast the unfeeling rigid grid of today with the meandering natural features of an earlier time. I wanted to see if any echoes of its earlier, more liquid days could still be heard in the Harlem of today. In walking the notional shore of the stream it took us through several public housing courtyards which all seemed to have fountains going, keeping people cool. It also took us into a privately run pocket park housing a wonderful home made water folly complete with a little working stream and Japanese garden features and sculptures and murals. You could almost make believe it was fed from the remnants of the creek forced underground long ago. It also led me right to the Harlem Mere, in Central Park, originally formed from the brackish swamps that were the flood plain of the stream. In all we found lots of water, none of it naturally occurring, unless you count our natural need to cool off in August. It achieved its aim which was to get people thinking about the natural history of a city who’s only constant is change. At some point this place was in a beautiful natural stasis and we can learn a lot from its beginnings.

More info and photos here.

Google map of the walk
Excerpt of the Viele Map circa 1865, still used today by contractors in Manhattan.
Deep Listening
Walking near 106th and FDR, the beginning of the 1.5 hour long walk.