Are the alligators in New York City sewers just an urban legend? Not according to Salvatore Condoluci, 92, who in 1935 claimed to have caught and killed an 8-foot-long gator in a sewer on 123rd Street near the Harlem River. However, it wasn't until the publication of Robert Daly's 1959 book The World Beneath The City that the sewer alligator stories slithered into popular culture. In honor of the book's 50 year anniversary, the New York Times found and interviewed Conduluci. The article also quotes BB pal Loren Coleman who has studied this curious bit of urban folklore in great depth, covering it in his book Mysterious America. According to Daly's book, the former superintendent of city sewers, Teddy May, saw the reptiles firsthand. From the NYT:
Mr. May decided to go down to sewers himself to determine whether there was anything other than an excess of whiskey behind his inspectors' reports of narrow escapes from alligators. That startling description of what he found, given by the man affectionately known as the King of the Sewers and recounted by a journalist, was immortalized in "The World Beneath the City":
Alligators serenely paddling around in his sewers. The beam of his own flashlight had spotlighted alligators whose length, on the average, was about two feet. Some may have been longer. Avoiding the swift current of the trunk lines under major avenues, the beasts had wormed up the smaller pipes under less important neighborhoods, and there Teddy had found them. The colony appeared to have settled contentedly under the very streets of the busiest city in the world...
"These tales had a journalistic background," said Loren Coleman, director and curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Me., who has researched and written about the topic for decades. "Daley's book came along, and it was almost like independent confirmation."
"The Book Behind the Sewer-Alligator Legend" (NY Times)
More background at Cryptomundo