Eyesore of the Week: Greenwich Street cobbles

I was first alerted to the state of these cobbles by G., who bikes past here — between Vestry and Laight — regularly on the way back to her house. (I bike the wrong way down Washington, to avoid the cobbles altogether, or take the bikeway, and didn’t realize how bad it had gotten.) Not only are there huge gaps between the cobbles that could easily snag a bike tire or a wheelchair tire, the entire roadbed seems to have waves in it (my pictures don’t do it justice). The patch job in the intersection is not an acceptable fix — practically or aesthetically.

Hopefully CB1 can get some attention from DOT or DDC when they bring this up at their Landmarks & Preservation Committee on April 11. Comment here with any other Belgian block issues.



  1. I could not agree more. I frequently walk along this section of Greenwich and see sedans bottom out, cars swerve to avoid the waves, etc.

  2. Cobblestones aren’t meant for the volume of traffic they get, especially Laight St., which gets the Holland Tunnel exit traffic going to the Westside Highway. Yes, they’re quaint but highly impractical.

    • I would disagree- many places that still have cobblestones from the last time they were redone, perhaps the 1930’s, still are in pretty good condition, whereas any place they have been torn up, or even worse, completely redone poorly (especially recently) do not hold up nearly as well. On North Moore Street, a relatively busy street as it gets heavy truck traffic heading to West Street including Ladder 8, the places where the stones had not been torn up were tightly packed, and solid, whereas places they had been removed and replaced for infrastructure work, were terrible.

      Six years ago or so, they redid the whole street from Hudson to Greenwich, and the cobblestones are already showing signs of unevenness and dips. As George said it is more a matter of how they are replaced when street work is done, but even more so, how well they are installed in the first place nowadays- which sadly was done terribly on Greenwich Street a few years back.

    • “Cobblestones aren’t meant for the volume of traffic they get, especially Laight St”

      This very famous and busy street would disagree


    • “Cobblestones aren’t meant for the volume of traffic they get, especially Laight St”


      Yeah… you’re totally correct. Excellent well informed point.

  3. Thanks for highlighting the state of the cobble stones…it’s awful at the Laight & Greenwich intersection. Stones have shifted under the weight of high car traffic coming from the Holland tunnel spill off on Laight St to West Side highway and from Vestry spilling to Greenwich St off of West Side highway.

    I lived nearby when the cobblestones were originally replaced. Knew it was an unsustainable fix the first time walking across Greenwich street after a wet weather day. The “grouting” used to hold the stones turned into a watery grey puddle. Like cement mix, minus the reinforcement of cement.

    The original renovation was done poorly. It needs to be addressed. Makes sense for traffic patterns to be taken into consideration, as well.

  4. True the heavy traffic has an impact on the cobblestones. I think a bigger problem is when contractors remove them to do work, they never reinstall them correctly. The south side of Vestry by the Holland Tunnel has poorly laid stones.

  5. Don’t agree with this post. When I moved into Tribeca in 2001 those streets were covered with beautiful cobblestone, almost smoothed flat as they had been there from the days they removed them from the weighted shipping boats and with no other use paved the streets of Manhattan with them. I remember the day they ripped up our beautiful streets and paved them to look like any other street in Manhattan.

    I could still navigate the streets in my 4” high hills but the charm was gone. I remember they day they started to replace the pavement with new cobblestone. Over what was most likely many months felt like years as my excitement grew for the completion of this “art installation.”

    And when the day came I gasped as I near toppled over in my heels, grabbing at my boyfriends hand. Those cobblestones have been a disaster from the day they were put in. You can’t walk on them. Certainly can’t bike ride over them – we are always forced illegally onto the sidewalk – and even driving over them is unpleasant to say the least. The DOT cannot come to the rescue because they destroyed what should have been a historical landmark that was working. I guess they finally realized their mistake but now we are left is with this. Our only hope is our great-grandkids benefit from the decades of corrosion/smoothing that will take place over the next century plus.

  6. Also anyone else find the displaced motorized bike messengers and Citibike users on the sidewalks are a BIG hazard?

    FYI: DOT and City Council person Margaret Chin have not been effective in correcting the problem. Neither has the Dept.of Design and Construction, the agency that oversaw the construction of this from Canal Street down to Hubert Street.

    I submitted a letter requesting repairs to the cobble stones be done to the NYC-DOT. Their response dated May 12 2017: “We appreciate your concerns and will make every effort to address the issue that you have raised. Your request has been assigned to the appropriate Operational Unit and has been given case # DOT-335480-D9X3 . The Manhattan Borough Commissioner will provide you with our recommendations.” That was almost 2 years ago.

    After numerous requests, an in person meeting, photographs and documentation City Council person’s office request I provided I did so on Feb 18 2018) to Vincent Fang at Councilperson Margaret Chin’s office who then wrote me: “I have gone to the location and you’re right. The cobble stones do not look great. The council member has asked DOT to look at every available option to address the issue.”

    DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner has since added paved asphalt over the cobblestones and the conditions remain unsafe.

  7. I suspect there are simply no competent cobblestone contractors left in NY. It’s not a weight or traffic issue – plenty of European cities have perfect cobblestone streets that get 10x the traffic of Greenwich st.

    The contractor that did that job should have their fee clawed back. It was appalling work that started coming apart almost instantly.

  8. I too cycle the wrong way (gingerly) on Washington Street because of the cobble stones on Greenwich. In Europe they don’t seem to have this problem…the cobble stones are not the way they are on Greenwich Street because of traffic…the person who placed them needs to go back to Cobblestone school.

  9. The problem is not the cobbles. They were laid in concrete which is totally crazy. Cobble stones are designed to naturally lock together like a capstone as the weight of traffic actually improves the quality of the roadway. Concrete is rigid and cracks. The results are clear. The one upside was that the uneven surface slows traffic to a crawl. The recent patch up job is the worst of all worlds. Looks ugly and encourages higher speeds while still impossible to cycle on.

    • Try going across them with a stroller! I literally have to eyeball a path through beforehand else risk getting stuck

      I agree the issue has more to do with the substrate than the cobblestones themselves.

      One would figure that the city would understand this but it’s more profitable to their contractor friends if they get to build these 3x over instead of just once
      (Extra donuts!)

      • Rohin, at your age, you shouldn’t be using a stroller. The real issue is that cobblestone crosswalks are in no way ADA compliant. Just think if you had to get across many of the cobbled crosswalks along Greenwich Street (or at Harrison/ Hudson, Jay/Greenwich, etc.) on crutches or in a wheelchair or are elderly or a klutz. Are you thinking? Because the city did not.

  10. The cobblestones have deteriorated dramatically since they were reinstalled in 2009 (I think)

    My belief is that the extremely heavy truck traffic from the Citibank remodel is a prime contributor.

    I’ve called the Citibank number on the construction sign and asked for the number of the Citi employee responsible for the project. I think they should fix it or Pay for fixing it. The problem is acute on Greenwich from Canal to Hubert. The historic and charming appearance is really compromised by the asphalt patches at Laight between Vestry and Hubert and the Greenwich /Hubert intersection. This street acted as a filming location in the past but that has dried up.

  11. Sorry I didn’t respond to this sooner. Just to update, as a former member of CB1,I had been complaining about the cobblestones – not only in Tribeca but in the West Village as well, for a few years. I finally got to point out the issue to the Department of Transportation at a Quality of Life Meeting. I was asked to make a list of all the streets affected — That annoyed me. I don’t work for the department of transportation. I am a volunteer. I explained just how dangerous the situation is – for people crossing; for baby carriages – seniors especially and with walkers; wheelchairs; bike riders and of course, cars. I mentioned that many bike riders use the sidewalk for this reason, creating an even more dangerous situation on the sidewalk. I mentioned that this contributed to traffic issues – since all cars must slow down almost to a crawl when driving over it. I put much of it in writing and warned that someone could eventually get very hurt. Well, a few months back, a tenant at 40 Harrison fell on those broken up streets and broke his hip. I won’t go into the whole story because it’s personal to his family and does not have a happy ending. It was THAT incident that finally got everyone moving – at least a little. Days after, Mayor DeBlasio was making a speech on the West Side Highway and a neighbor begged him to look at the cobblestones on Harrison Street – explaining the accident, etc. He assigned one of his assistants to help out. Since then, the DOT did some research and the last word from the Mayor’s office was that there were sink holes on Harrison. If that is the case – then our community has a lot more to worry about than just cobblestones, but I tend not to accept that estimation as the whole truth. People with knowledge about urban planning said that the stones were not installed properly. There is too much space between them. Prior to that, the last stones lasted well over 100 years. These stones were put in not even 7 years ago (unless I’m wrong) and I believe the company who installed them should be held responsible to lay them again. After all, the city paid a fortune for those new stones and installation – and shouldn’t they be warranted to withstand traffic etc like the ones before?

    This story goes on and on and getting results is incredibly frustrating. I do not believe the trucks, etc. are causing the problems — I believe strongly they were installed wrong.

    I can keep you guys posted if you’d like. I’ve worked with the Community Board, some of our elected officials and the DOT – and the Mayor’s office. How many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? This problem has gone on too long and for the amount of money it cost the city, it is completely unacceptable. WHY DO THEY SIMPLY DISMISS ASKING THE ORIGINAL CONTRACTOR TO FIX THE JOB? Or – if that contractor doesn’t know what it’s doing, they are responsible to find someone who does.

    Diane Lapson
    Independence Plaza North Tenant Association
    and former member of CB1

    P.S. Those cobblestoned streets are very dangerous to walk on – so please be really careful. No jokes here.

  12. Update – NOTHING IS HAPPENING. After discussing this situation with folks who work in contracting, I was told that the stones should be redone by a company from Europe who knows all about cobblestones and the laying distance, etc.

    Why is the city not doing anything about this terrible situation?
    Telling us that Harrison Street has sink hole as a cause for the cobblestones being misaligned is not accurate. And if that’s the case, then all of lower Manhattan is in deep trouble.

    This is incredibly frustrating — and unacceptable. I will contact the CB board to see what is happening.

  13. Just an update. We had a meeting at the Quality of Life committee at CB#1 this week to discuss the cobblestones again and how since shortly after 2009, the damages began and were never repaired.

    A reporter from the Post is working on a story. The DDC was at the meeting and heard how people have fallen and even worse as a result of the stones condition. I believe we may be making some progress. This is really completely irresponsible of NY City.

    I am earnestly working with the city, etc. to get somewhere once and for all. Too much time has passed. And it’s been impossible. Will keep you updated here.