A lawsuit, and then a death, that started with a fall on the cobblestones

Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee also took up the issue of the cobblestones last month, at the request of  IPN residents who live on Harrison — and there’s a horrible story from one neighbor in particular.

On Oct. 22, 2018, John Croce, who was 70 at the time, was crossing mid-block at about 8:45p on Harrison between West and Greenwich, across from the lobby entrance to 40 Harrison, where he lived. He tripped on the road and suffered several injuries, the worst being a fractured left hip and neurological damage. He couldn’t get up, and his partner, Lonni Levy, said passers-by had to direct traffic around him as he lay in the road, waiting for an ambulance.

The fracture required several surgeries, including a full hip replacement, and in December of that year, John sued the city for medical expenses and damages.

On Feb. 25, 2019, John died — five months after the fall, having never recovered — and Lonni took up the case on behalf of his estate.

The complaint alleges that the city was negligent in its design, construction and maintenance of the roadway, since the stones are “excessively spaced, irregular in dimensions, improperly leveled and insufficiently cemented” — which no one can argue at this point. The case is still pending.

IPN Tenant Association president Diane Lapson was also at the remote meeting, and said that she knows several neighbors who have sustained injuries from falling on the stones. She has spent years complaining to the city about the condition of the roadway at Harrison — to the point of even touring the site with representatives of DOT and the Di Blasio administration — and is beyond frustrated. She maintains that when the stone roadway was repaired in 2009 following watermain replacement, it started to deteriorate almost immediately.

And, she notes, the condition of the cobblestones does not just affect pedestrians: it also drives bikers to the sidewalk, which has its own hazards.

“I don’t even know how to get attention any more,” Diane said. “We have had somebody die, and other people fracture their wrists — and those are only the people we know about. It’s kind of unbelievable that this is continuing for at least 10 years. How do we change that?”

Lonni Levy told the committee that she has lived in IPN for 45 years, 27 of them with John, and now she is just trying to make sure others can avoid this kind of suffering. “I will never get over losing John to an accident that was so preventable. I have just gotten used to it.”

CB1 said it will put together a timeline of its former requests for repairs to the city as well of a list of the state of cobblestone streets that require repair in the neighborhood and put together a reso in the next months.




  1. Has anyone contacted our new representatives including the BP?

    • In the past, I contacted our elected officials and some tried to get action. Cora Fung from Margaret Chin’s office went on discovery walk with Lucian Reynolds from CB#1 and DOT way before the pandemic. The commissioner at the time is now being replaced by a new one. Nothing happened after their walk. We were told by DeBlasio’s office there were “sink holes.”

      I am in the process of engaging all of our new officials — because it’s not just Harrison. It’s almost all of the cobbled streets since 2009 including parts of Soho, Noho and West Village. I will let them fight for those, though many of us use them. I am copying the articles, etc. to the local officials there.

      Christopher Marte’s office is waiting for a call back from me about other things and we will talk about this as well.

      I think now that it’s front and center in CB1 again – we will get somewhere. Anyone with the desire to help fight – especially if you have any expertise…. or even to just be at virtual meetings, etc. please contact me through Info@IPNTA.Org. We have at least provided proof to DOT DDC, etc. that we have officially been in contact since 2009. It might need a big renovation if there are sink holes, but again – if that’s true then we are in more serious trouble than just dangerous cobblestones.


  2. Isn’t that what cross walks and side walks are for?

    • Pedestrians are not limited to sidewalks and crosswalks, and in fact are required to use roadways in many instances — getting out of a cab for one.

      • I totally support pedestrian rights and movement and of course have great sympathy for our neighbor who fell on Harrison and later died of his injuries. But why must someone exiting a taxi use the roadway? Couldn’t and shouldn’t they exit on the curb side of the cab — safer for all, including us bike-riders?

        • If you are leaving your car, you must exit from the roadside.

          There is no excuse for dangerous and broken cobblestones.

          Seriously, in an emergency, the streets fill up no matter where they are. I’ve been here during 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. You can’t direct traffic during an emergency.

          Let us not shift the problem on to pedestrians and drivers. We taxpayers deserve to see our city safe for everyone, don’t we?

  3. It’s not endemic to cobblestone streets. A street pothole killed an older cyclist recently as well.

    • This is a good point. All streets require maintenance. Asphalt streets are regularly repaved.

      • Cobbled streets actually should be need less maintenance. The ones in Europe have been there for centuries and don’t require much upkeep or repointing. Somehow NYC doesn’t know how to lay new cobbles. But they should be kept as they help to keep traffic slowed and provide the neighborhood with a lot of character.

  4. Some people want the cobblestone look (adds to the Historic

    nature of the neighborhood) They are in disrepair and safer

    street is paved with Asphalt or Concrete. Safety first!

  5. When I first moved here in 1976 the streets were beautifully cobbled — easy to walk on — but the city now digs them up, people steal the stones and the city workers have no craftsmanship on how to place the stones. They are so dangerous.

  6. I have been complaining about the lack of maintenance on Broad St and down Wall St for years. Cobblestones are missing, cement missing and every time I’ve tripped or seen a person trip and fall, I’ve called 311 with no follow up. It’s an absolute disgrace down here. THe NYSE doesn’t want to take responsibility (although they were responsible for spending ‘leftover money’ to have the cobblestones placed (and they are the incorrect size for a street) and have not been maintained since most of the brokers at the exchange have dwindled down in size over the past two years.

  7. We recently found out from a state and city official that the city agencies won’t remedy anyone’s problem unless there are very high numbers of 311 complaints.You have to show records of the complaints, their numbers,dates,etc. to show how long it’s been with no resolution.
    I also think the reporting in local papers like our Tribeca Citizen puts a spot light on our problems and lights a fire under the agencie’s tushy.

  8. I can attest to the dangerous hazard that is Harrison Street between West and Greenwich Streets. I bike regularly and try to follow all the rules of the road — except when it comes to that part of Harrison Street. Coming off the Hudson Greenway bike path into our neighborhood, I’m forced to ride on the sidewalk, exceedingly slowly (walking pace), early in the morning. I’ve tried but can’t ride on the cobblestones, which truly are deadly due to their disrepair. As soon as I reach Greenwich Street, I get back onto the street and detour around the rest of Harrison, traveling with traffic on that paved part of Greenwich and other paved, one way streets. Harrison is a mess.

    By the way, part of my route — crossing 14th Street east to west — takes me across the cobblestones from 9th to 10th Avenues. While these are teeth-rattling on a bike, they are still safe enough to ride on, which I always do. No need to abandon all hope and retreat to the sidewalk here. Whatever they did there, we should do here.

  9. I am so sorry to learn that the death of one of our neighbors seems to have resulted as a fall on the cobblestone street.
    i have been a long time foe of the COBBLEZATION of Greenwich street. from the inability to bike safely on the street , to several twisted ankles ,to the damage it has done to my delivery van.
    it looks lovely and old fashioned, but our current needs are not met by this anachronistic idea.
    i have jokedly told anyone who hears me complain: “that’s why god invented asphalt” of course what i mean to say is we -NYC have evolved over the last 100 years. cobblestone streets have appeal in Disneyland. and those disney streets are not built over the infrastructure that is NYC. cobblestone don’t work for us in this era.
    It’s time to get rid of the cobblestones.
    I’m tired of twisted ankles and falls.
    i’m tired of dodging bikers who use the sidewalks bc the street is unnavigable. Note: i am a citybike user. i refuse to ride on a side walk , so i will ride the wrong way on a street just to avoid the deathtrap of greenwich street.
    i’m tired-of seeing moms and strollers heave-hoeing across an intersection because the street is unnavigable
    i’m tired of getting my little delivery van repaired bc the street is unnavigable
    Let’s bring this to the attention of our newly elected Rep, Christopher Marte.
    the way the city works, we may be able to see a change in 3 years

  10. This article was recently brought to my attention. Four years ago I broke my ankle while crossing Vestry St at Hudson, so I just wanted to add my voice to the discussion. I have lived on Vestry St for 43 years. Between the digging up and poor maintainance of our streets, the gaps and unevenness have increased making them dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. Please keep up the pressure to either pave over and/or properly maintain our streets and thank you for shining light on this.