It's the stuff of New York legend: alligators in the sewer. Maybe it's an it's urban myth -- unlike recent tales of coyotes in the city -- but Manhattan Borough Historian, Michael Miscione, can trace the origins of this particular tale.
Miscione says today is the 75th anniversary of an event that's spawned countless reptilian tales. He proudly brandishes a New York Times clip from February 10, 1935 detailing how three teenagers discovered an alligator in the sewer while shoveling snow. One teenager, inspired by Westerns, made a lasso with a handy piece of rope, the article claims. 'With the others watching breathlessly, he dangled the noose into the sewer, and after several tantalizing near-catches, looped it around the 'gator's neck. Then he pulled hard. There was a grating of rough leathery skin against jumbled ice,' the article stated.
Eventually, the boys overtook the alligator. The article chronicles the climactic take down: 'Slowly, with it's curving tail twisting weakly, the animal was dragged from the snow, ten feet through the dark cavern, and to the street where it lay non-committal; it was not in Florida, that was clear.' The boys used the shovels they had been digging with to bludgeon the enfeebled creature to death. Police arrived, but did not press charges. They deduced that the alligator must have come from a 'steamer from the mysterious Everglades,' and left it at that. The Department of Sanitation carted the dead creature away later that night.
The 75th anniversary of this legend will be marked on the steps of City Hall by Miscione and representatives of the city Parks and Environmental Protection departments. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will also officially declare today 'Alligators in the Sewers Day.'
So with the impeding snow storm set to wreak havoc on the city, let us know if you find anything unusual while shoveling off the sidewalk. And if you see a wild alligator, please don't kill it.