The long-neglected plaza around Borough Hall has taken its first victim — a woman will sue the city after tripping and fracturing her hip on the cracked slate.
Joan Bassin, a 71-year-old Fort Greene resident, was traversing the broken-up bluestone plaza surrounding the government building near Adams Street last month, and her last step landed her in the hospital.
“My toe caught the sidewalk and I just went down,” she said. “I knew something was wrong right away. I was in pain and my head was close to the curb — someone called the ambulance while I was lying there.”
Bassin hadn’t read our coverage in January of Borough Hall’s deteriorating front door step — which even now is littered with broken cement and potholes that stem from wintertime use of ice-melting chemicals.
After our initial story (“A salt on Borough Hall”), the Parks Department claimed responsibility and said that a repair would be completed “as soon as possible.” But it never was, though the plaza was patched slightly in some places.
The horrendous trip and fall devastated Bassin’s hip, leaving her unable work for a month. She underwent two surgeries to swap her bone for a steel rod and her hip joint with a metal ball.
“It’s my first bionic part,” Bassin said. “I had never been to the hospital before. Now I’ve gone through over three weeks of physical therapy, a week in the hospital and surgeries.”
Luckily, she’s recovering quickly. But she and her lawyer plan to sue the Parks Department for its alleged negligence — much like Borough President Markowitz did when he collected a $225,000 slip-and-fall settlement in 2003 after he took a spill at an icy Albany parking lot in 2001.
Markowitz said that his office has “been begging to get repairs done” to the plaza, which is also the Beep’s front yard.
“There is no question that it is dangerous,” he added.
The Parks Department did not respond in time for our well-maintained online deadline. But an agency spokeswoman said earlier this year that the damage is caused by weather and the fact that government cars and trucks often drive on the pedestrian plaza. The New York Post, our sister publication, found that at least one of those cars is owned by Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin), who regularly parks on the plaza, though he has no clearance to do so.
Bassin is expected to take the city to court soon.
“This is a long-term problem that [the city] was aware of,” said Bassin’s lawyer, Steven Kaufman. “All they have done is put patches in certain spots — the rest is in bad shape. The plaza should be maintained, because right now it is a danger to all the pedestrians who use it.”