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Water Flows in Brooklyn

Image result for litchfield villa prospect park

The March issue of Harper's includes an article by Elizabeth Royte called "The Hidden Rivers of Brooklyn," which begins with a discussion of the view from a parapet on the tower of Litchfield Villa, on the western edge of Prospect Park.

"I was barely able to make out -- over treetops and tall buildings -- a glint of Gowanus Bay, roughly two miles away. Edwin Litchfield ... would have had no trouble seeing the bay and much of his land holdings out of a second-floor window."

Thus, she has set up her themes, of development, Brooklyn's history, and water.

Two paragraphs later she introduces us to Eymund Diegel, a sort of hydrological Adrian Monk, and she follows him, carrying the reader along, as he tries to reconstruct the one-time flow of water over the area, as it would have run back before the water was corralled into pipes.

A few grafs further on, we're treated to this description, which is worth the price of the issue at a newsstand: Wandering along the presumed course of Vechte's Brook, Diegel repeatedly dropped to the ground to listen at manhole covers and drains. He blurted out contextual clues: that anomalously large tree hinted at a steady water source; a discharge pipe protruding from a school basement spoke to regular flooding. 'That's as good as a chalk line on a sidewalk,' Diegel said.


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