In February 2022 I was hesitantly picking my way down Fulton and Gold Streets in the Seaport area, bracing against the icy winds and periodically dabbing tears from my eyes. I have plenty to cry about, but I was in a decent mood; my eyes automatically tear in temperatures of less than about 60 degrees. I passed one of my favorite spots on Fulton just east of Gold, a Belgian-blocked, rat-haunted alley called Ryders.
I have done a detailed post on the L-shaped alley, whose bend toward Gold reacquired its old name of Edens about 20 years ago. It’s one of the oldest lanes in the city along with its brethren maze of streets in the area and has been in existence since at least 1730. The most I have ever found out about it comes from Robert Sullivan’s book Rats (Bloomsbury, 2004). In fact, an entire chapter is devoted to Edens Alley (I’ll do without the apostrophe, as Sullivan does). Sullivan studied rats extensively on the L-shaped alley, since on Fulton Street it borders Chinese and fast food restaurants, which attracted legions of the rodents.
Sullivan’s meticulous research concluded that the alley first appeared around 1740, and he found in records of city proceedings from the late 1600s that a John Rider ordered paving stones for his street. A John Rider was also a prominent British-born barrister living in lower Manhattan at this time. The lane has been known as Rider, Rudder, Ridder and at last, Ryder’s.
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