The Case Of The Disappearing Cobblestone…
One of the distinctive and charming qualities of Soho are the side streets lined with original cobblestone. This cobblestone was brought in from Belgium in the 1700’s and is known as “Belgian Block“. This replaced the dirt and oyster shell roads of Manhattan’s past. Over the years, the cobblestone roads were replaced with pavement, but a heavy concentration of the remaining cobblestone can still be found.
One of the reasons the cobblestone still exists is due in part to a preservation rule requiring restoration of cobblestone in designated landmark areas to its original state. However, when walking down Prince and Spring Streets, cobblestone walkways are being replaced by new, inconsistent looking brick and pavement.
There have been several recent and not so recent efforts emphasizing the importance of preservation. One was when Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Presevation (GVSHP) noticed cobblestones being torn out by ConEd. He urged the city to take steps to ensure the cobblestones were replaced in the pattern in which they were removed (2002).
Plans must be submitted to the State historic preservation officer for review and approval contingent upon the historic resource impact in the district. This includes the roadbed which is an important historic feature of this district.
As of 3/2013, the city has said to residents that many of the old cobblestones on their streets have to go. Hopefully more people start to notice these small changes, is it too little too late?