Sunday, May 11, 2008
Catching Fish in Manhattan's Basements
The other day I dropped by BLDGBLOG and discovered one of the most remarkable posts I've ever come across. Seriously--nothing's gotten me this excited in months. The subject was basement fishing. In New York.
According to the post, in 1971, a gentleman named Jack Gasnick wrote a short piece for the New York Times in which he described a most unusual discovery. He claimed that, in the basement of his old hardware store on Second Avenue and 53rd street, he had uncovered a large stream that was stocked with fish.
He said he made the discovery around 1956, shortly after a storm flooded the building's cellar. When the water finally drained away, he was surprised to find two or three fish left behind. He decided to investigate, only to discover an old iron grate beneath the dirt on the basement floor. He and his brother managed to lift the grate, and here's what they saw . . .
"We had a lantern to pierce the cellar darkness and fifteen feet below I clearly saw the stream bubbling and pushing about, five feet wide and upon its either side, dark green mossed rocks. This lively riverlet was revealed to us exactly as it must have appeared to a Manhattan Indian many years ago.
With plum-bob and line, I cast in and found the stream to be over six feet deep. The spray splashed upwards from time to time and standing on the basement floor, I felt its tingling coolness.
One day I was curious enough to try my hand at fishing. I had an old-fashioned dropline and baited a hook with a piece of sperm-candle. I jiggled the hook for about five minutes and then felt a teasing nibble. Deep in the basement of an ancient tenement on Second Avenue in the heart of midtown New York City, I was fishing."
OMG, OMG, OMG. That is the coolest story I've ever heard. Because as crazy as it sounds, any long-time reader of this blog knows that there are lots of underground rivers and streams throughout the city. (Need a refresher? Click here.) There's even a map (below) that shows all of them.
Of course some experts claim that fish couldn't survive underground for that long. But several visitors to BLDGBLOG noted that blind carp are known to live in the ancient, underground cisterns that lie deep beneath Istanbul, Turkey. People who live above the cisterns often catch the fish through holes in their basement floors.
So it IS possible. Can you imagine? You invite a friend over for dinner. When she asks what you'll be eating you just hand her a fishing pole and lead her down to the basement . . .
Read more here, here, and here.