I read with interest the June 9 letter of Donald F. Squires protesting my contention, as reported by Anna Quindlen in her excellent May 19 news article, that there are no alligators in the New York City sewer system. Yet, examined dispassionately, his letter seems to bear out my position.
For example, when one looks at the synthesis of the five Times articles of the 1930's offered by Mr. Squires as evidence of the existence of Alligator Cloaca Novum Eboracum, one finds reports of alligators in the Bronx River, in the East River, in New Jersey (a gratuitous thrust, as I have never commented on the presence of alligators in the Garden State) and even on East 123d Street, Manhattan. However, in none of these articles, at least as Mr. Squires reports them, is there any mention of an alligator actually being found in a sewer! (I do not know his feelings about the Brooklyn subway, but, despite certain similarities that go beyond the fact both are undergound, I do not consider the Brooklyn subway to be a sewer in the classical meaning of that word.)
In the 28 years I have been in this business, neither I nor anyone else connected with the sewer game has ever spotted an alligator in a sewer--or anywhere else, for that matter. Since the most recent article cited by Mr. Squires is dated June 7, 1937, fully 45 years ago and 17 years before my odyssey in the sewers began, and since I am sure that Mr. Squires, whose zeal for his cause is to be admired, would have produced more recent evidence had it been available, I feel that, however inadvertently, he has further vindicated my stand.
Mr. Squires's theory correlating the reported sightings of alligators in the Big Apple with economic hard times is fascinating. However, if one must search for a sociological explanation for this phenomenon of the 1930's, I, myself, would be more inclined to associate it with the repeal of Prohibition.
JOHN T. FLAHERTY
Chief, Division of Sewer Design, Bureau of Sewers, Department of Environmental Protection
New York, June 29, 1982