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On a cold day in the Bronx last winter, I descend underground and splash into the freezing water of Tibbetts Brook.

Tearing the tough rubber of my hip-high wader boots, I half-climb, half-fall along the stone wall where excess pond water flows into this dark tunnel.

Though seen by few people in the intervening two centuries, the structure is fascinating both as a historic artifact and for its present-day importance—it is still the main line for removing rain runoff and sewage from So Ho and Tri Be Ca, as well as Canal Street.

Entering a major sewer system under one of New York’s busiest streets is no cake walk, and wading through sewage is a nasty business at best.

The actual Collect Pond was filled in, diverting both the spring water and the city’s sewage through the Canal Street drainage ditch.