What, Exactly, Is Lurking In NYC Puddles—and Can It Actually Hurt You?
Status: Available Now!
Type: Comments
Date: Tuesday 3 September 2019, 12:00 AM
Media: Curbed

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Type: Business
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One of the most common concerns of the New York City pedestrian is the mysterious water that sometimes drips onto your head. Is it rain? Air conditioner drippings? A rich person spitting on you from their penthouse apartment? Who can say for sure? Still, as summer wanes and air conditioners are put away for the season, those random droppings happen less frequently. But there is another watery menace that New Yorkers are concerned with year-round: the mini-moats that mysteriously appears below your feet right when you’re stepping off a curb. This water is known, colloquially, as “puddles”; once you’ve lived in New York for a few years and stepped in about 10,000 of them, it’s impossible not to wonder what exactly lurks below their oily surfaces. In New York, at least, puddles tend to be the size of a modest studio apartment, and are typically filled not just with water, but also garbage. They’re a persistent nuisance for city residents: According to a 2018 study from, “the number of street flooding complaints is skyrocketing across the five boroughs.” This is due, in part, to climate change, which leads to increased rainfall and rising sea levels. (Flooding is, of course, the worst in areas that are close to bodies of water.) It’s also due, in part, to overstressed infrastructure (i.e. clogged sewers), as well as reckless overdevelopment; more development means fewer permeable surfaces, among other problems.
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