Posts Tagged ‘Minetta Brook’

Minetta Brook beneath the Village

June 18, 2008

Minetta Brook, “once a placid stream dividing Manhattan Island from the North [Hudson] to the East River,” as described in a 1901 New York Times article, used to be flush with trout and surrounded by dense forest.

Native Americans named it “Manette,” or Devil’s Water. The Dutch called it “Bestevaer’s Killetje” which the British turned into “Bestavers Rivulet,” as it’s referred to in the upper right corner of this 1783 map, from The Historical Atlas of New York City. (Too bad the brook is cut off by the end of the map, so it’s tough to get a sense of where it flowed in to the East River, as the Times article states.)

As development pushed northward the brook was diverted beneath Washington Square, where it gurgled its way under the West Village. Minetta Street (below), a tiny lane intersecting little Minetta Place, bends slightly the way its namesake brook supposedly wound across the land.

In the lobby of the apartment building at 2 Fifth Avenue is a clear tube through which Minetta brook used to bubble up out of the ground. Unfortunately, the doorman told me he hasn’t seen any water in it in six years. Could the Minetta have run dry?