Lost Rivers of Brooklyn-Eymund Diegel-NYCLost streams of Brooklyn, mapped by Eymund Diegel

We’ve previously gone in search of Manhattan’s buried streams and most recently reported about efforts to daylight a river in the Bronx, so we were excited to see the report in Harper’s Magazine about a man tracing the lost rivers of Brooklyn. It’s easy to forget, even in the outer boroughs, how much engineering has been undertaken to make New York City more habitable to settlement and how much natural landscape has been reclaimed in the process. Urban planner Eymund Diegel, who works at the New York City Department of Transportation, took Harper’s around to trace the lost Brooklyn streams, and created his own map. 

Diegel shows that you can not only see the outpourings of buried streams (though discharge pipes, leaks in basements, and more) but also hear the streams if you put your ear to the ground, literally. Diegel believes the map he’s made above of the ghost streams is 80% accurate, the springs at nearly 100%. In person, Diegel uses two maps overlayed – a 1782 British Headquarters map under a 1767 map by a British cartographer.

His research goes far beyond urban spelunking. Diegel has served as the lead researcher of the Gowanus Canal and as a planner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. He believes that some of these buried streams can be disconnected from the city’s pipes, rerouted back in their natural direction into places like the Gowanus Canal and relieve the city’s overburdened combined sewer system. For those unaware, New York City’s antiquated combined sewage and stormwater system dumps raw, untreated sewage into the rivers during storms. Read more about this mission on Harper’s.

Next, get an inside look into how NYC’s sewer is treated as the state of the art digester eggs in Newtown Creek.


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