Volume 17 • Issue 14 | August 27 - September 02, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson

A crew installed new, replacement cobblestones at Spring St. on the West Side Highway last Wednesday.

West Side Highway workers look to stop stone thieves

By Lincoln Anderson

Cobblestones lining the sidewalks along the West Side Highway have been disappearing, and the stone setters whose job it is to replace them are pretty sure they know why: Suburban homeowners are using the highway as a free Home Depot for lawn improvement.

“They didn’t just get up and walk away,” said Frank Corrao, 36, who was part of a six-man crew installing new cobblestones in bare spots near Spring St. last Wednesday afternoon. “Somebody took these for their home, there’s no doubt about it. Every driveway in Long Island is usually blacktop with a cobblestone border. Or they use them for flowerbeds. Staten Island, New Jersey, it could be people from Manhattan — anywhere.”

Corrao said the stones can be bought easily enough for $3.50 each at home-furnishing and supply stores.

“They’re also known as ‘Holland stones,’ because they used to be brought over in the bottom of ships,” he noted.

But apparently the thieves would rather swipe them for free from Tribeca, the West Village, Chelsea or Clinton.

Corrao’s partner, Charlie Lobello, 33, said they doubt it’s homeless people who are taking them.

“If you’re homeless, how many could you carry?” he noted.

When the highway, also known as Route 9A, was rebuilt several years ago, some of the old, worn cobblestones removed from the waterfront on West St. and 12th Ave. were used to line the edge of the sidewalk on the road’s west side between Harrison and 59th Sts. In fact, Tribec, the company subcontracted by the state Department of Transportation to replace the missing stones, did the original job during the Route 9A reconstruction.

“We did this work before,” said Lobello. “They stole ’em. Now we’re doing it again.”

In the initial project, the stones were just set in sand, which makes digging them out fairly easy. The new stones are being put in more securely.

“Now they want a little cement [mixed] in, to lock it in, as a deterrent,” noted Corrao.

While the old stones are dark gray and worn from years of cars driving over them, the new granite replacement stones are shiny and white, with a rough surface.

It was 3 p.m., quitting time for the stone-setting crew. The next day would be more of the same, though just a bit farther up the road, putting in new cobblestones in an area where old ones had been pilfered by the Javits Center.

“Tomorrow, 31st St.,” Lobello said, as they called it a day.

A call to D.O.T. was not returned by press time.


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