July 12, 2022
Blame It on the Rain
- as seen by -Julie Larsen
It has been nearly ten years since Superstorm Sandy hit the tri-state area causing destructive flooding. On July 1, 2022, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium made a recovery milestone as exhibits and public spaces were fully opened. I wondered if there had been other times in history when weather affected our parks. In a recent conversation with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Archives, an interesting photo and story came to light.
July 12, 1937, marked day five of a record-breaking heat wave in New York City. The city’s beaches were packed to capacity, even through the night, and the death toll steadily mounted.
Relief arrived that afternoon in a torrential rainstorm, dousing the five boroughs in what the New York Daily News reported as the “most intense rainstorm ever recorded in New York City.” The city’s infrastructure was briefly paralyzed, with all trains stalled at Grand Central Station and cars immersed in water above the hubcaps.
Perspective briefly shifted, however, for the seals at the Central Park Zoo, as the shallow pool within their enclosure slowly rose above the top of the fence. Armed with broom handles to clear the clogged drains, NYC Parks and Recreation Department workers donned raincoats or doffed their uniforms completely, while the resident seals briefly enjoyed swimming out of the enclosure and staying cool in the vast overflow.