Two Water Tables

1) A neighborhood in Brooklyn known as "The Hole" is thirty feet below sea level. It is so close to the water table, in fact, that local homes are not connected to the city's sewer system, relying instead on cesspools; the streets—with names like Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire—are often flooded, on the verge of permanently returning to marshland. The Hole is a short documentary by Courtney Sell and Billy Feldman about this neighborhood; cowboys on horseback wander through water-logged streets while abandoned housing developments soak up rain like giant sponges.

2) Montréal's St. Pierre River "was pushed underground long ago," we read in the Montréal Gazette; before it was funneled through storm drains and sewers, however, the river "would occasionally flood the surrounding farmlands." This tendency to flood never went away: it just went into people's basements. As one local homeowner explains, "The land is low, apparently very low. Before I bought the building, the inspector I hired told me the pit of standing water in one corner of the basement was no cause for concern. 'Oh that,' he said. 'That's quite normal here. The water table is very high.' Yes, it is."

The notion that a city could be so misaligned with its own water table that puddles—in basements and roadways alike—are actually the return of an underground river quietly streaming through your cellar, and your neighbor's cellar, and their neighbor's cellar, and a thousand other cellars all invisible to maps, or the self-reassertion of an ancestral marsh surfacing like a dream in the streets is fascinating, bringing to mind the possibly apocryphal tale of old men fishing in the basements of Manhattan, casting their lines down into still existing rivers and streams that were simply paved over and forgotten, or the tempting prospect of resurrecting London rivers based on obscure royal decrees.

(Via @wateryone and @under_the_city).

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Blogger Unknown said...

Also related, Dave Eckert's documentary on Four Mile Run in Arlington Virginia:

April 04, 2011 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Sandra J. said...

Nate Dorr and Nathan Kensinger first wrote about The Hole in 2009. Their original research and photographs are the primary source for the many stories and films that have since been done about The Hole.

Nate Dorr's photo essay, "In The Hole" (Impose Magazine, July 22, 2009):

Nathan Kensinger's photo essay, "The Hole" (August 25, 2009):

April 05, 2011 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to what I find in most sources, most of "the Hole," also known as the Jewel Streets area, is in Queens as you can see on this Hagstrom map:

I know it's not as marketable to MTV to leave out the Brooklyn reference, but what actually might save the Hole from new development is the fact that it sits on the border, making new, large building permits tough to process.

April 06, 2011 1:31 PM  

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