The one way not to die falling through a cellar door

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This is probably not a good idea. (via Flickr user Steven Matthews.)

Even though you probably refer to this city as your “stomping grounds” among friends, you might want to be careful where you stomp. Because sometimes ridiculous, only-in-New-York accidents happen, like a man falling to his death in Bed-Stuy through a commercial cellar door. Ugh. And while any instance of falling through the fucking floor is a real “freak accident,” we at Brokelyn wanted to know whether it was a preventable one — so we turned to an expert.

Peter Pastor owner of Emerald Doors in Queens, told us why it’s probably better to stay away from cellar doors altogether when you’re the foot traffic in the city. “First and foremost, most of them are already tripping hazards,” he tells us. “But I’ve seen doors that are pretty close to death traps.”

What makes a door into a death trap? “Every door is supposed to be made with partially concealed hinges that are even with the surface of the opening; they extend underneath to act as a cross-brace for the door. But some builders are lazy and won’t use them. Or the hinges will rust, or extensions will fall off. And the door will sag. And it just has the appearance of being in place.” That’s when one absent-minded step can have fatal consequences. “Like if it was plywood. Getting kicked.”

When it comes to any kind of maintenance for floor openings, it’s technically a landlord’s responsibility to take care of it. That’s why this accident should read as a cautionary tale, Pastor says. “It’s not rocket science—I’d just never walk over one. Your foot could get caught.”

And if you’re a building owner with a cellar door, refresh it with a coat of rust-resistant paint every year. “They can last a hundred years that way,” Pastor says.


  1. Incredible expert sourcing. My walking habits are forever changed and a potential trap door fatality has been avoided.

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