Alligators in the sewers of NY-The legend
Alligators in the sewers of NY-The legend
For decades, an urban legend has circulated par excellence in New York: the presence of alligators in the city’s sewers.
New York City has 10,500 kilometers of pipes, ranging from 10-centimeter pipes to huge pipes. It is said that the alligators that live there are giant, almost blind and albino, because they live in the shadows due to the lack of sunlight, since they are born and spend their entire lives swimming below the hectic streets.
It is also said that they feed on rats and rubbish waste, and that they are waiting for a visit from an unsuspecting sewer worker.
While their story is one of the city’s most chilling urban myths, it has permeated pop culture, becoming a recurring theme in books, TV shows, and movies for more than 80 years. They have always appeared before the public as sinister monsters planning to climb to the surface to eat the inhabitants of New York.
There is such a fascination for these reptiles that, every February 9, “Crocodile in the Sewer Day” is celebrated, a festival that serves to raise funds that help maintain drinking water in the Big Apple.
The truth is that the city rescues several alligators a year, but none of them came out of the sewer, instead they had usually just been pets that their owners had abandoned when they had reached a meter in length.
In the decade of the 30s of the last century, the purchase of baby alligators had become popular. They even sold them in magazines like Popular Mechanics for $1.5. It was then that wealthy New York families who spent their vacations seeking the warmth of Florida bought souvenir baby alligators as pets for their children.
As reptiles became too large to keep as pets, the dangerousness and cost of keeping these animals increased considerably. To get rid of them, their owners found no better way than to flush them down the toilet. What popular belief tells is that many of these reptiles managed to survive and reproduce under the city, finding their home in the enormous New York sewer system.
Over the years, and after several generations, these animals mutated, thus losing vision and pigmentation, making them blind and albino.
On February 10, 1935, The New York Times published a story that would mark the beginning of this unique Legend. It said that two young men from Harlem named James and Salvatore were cleaning 123rd Street after a snowfall when they saw an alligator about two meters and about 56 kilos coming out of a manhole. The youths managed to capture it and get it out of the sewer, but when the animal tried to attack, they beat it to death with a shovel.
The article suggests that the alligator had ended up in the sewers of East Harlem because it might have escaped from a steamboat sailing up the East River from the Everglades, Florida (alligator territory) and slipped into the system. sewer.
For weeks no other topic was discussed in the city, and thus the legend of the alligators in the New York sewers was born.
Many sighting stories surfaced over the years. The most recent are: in 2001, when they discovered an alligator living in a lake in Central Park and in 2010, in the Astoria neighborhood (Queens), they found one of these reptiles under a car.
Currently, the council recognizes that every year it collects several alligators that have normally been abandoned pets once grown.
Oddly enough, today in the United States you can still send alligators through the postal service if they do not exceed 50 centimeters.
But, specifically in the state of New York, a special permit is required to keep them as pets. And, of course, it is totally forbidden to release them on the street.
In any case, and although the legend is based on some true stories, expert herpetologists say that the survival of reptiles in the New York sewer is simply impossible, let alone their reproduction. Among other things, due to the toxicity of human feces and the low winter temperatures of its waters. In addition, during torrential rains it would be swept away by the great current of the water from the pipes.
For those who are in the city, you can visit the 14th St – 8th Ave (L) subway station where you can see the statue of an alligator coming out of a manhole. Another very peculiar fact is that the platforms are full of hidden figurines that are part of the work ‘Life Underground’, by Tom Otterness.
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Cocodrilos en las alcantarillas de NY: La leyenda
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