Robert Stevens, Loyal and Loving Bookseller, Dies of Covid-19

Robert Stevens, known as Steve, sold books outside the subway station at 96th Street and Broadway for years. On April 21, he died of Covid-19, according to an obituary pasted to a storefront nearby his old stand.

The obituary writer wrote that Stevens was a reassuring presence at the book table, who “plied his trade with unwavering cheerfulness.” His stand “offered the thrill of discovery” and many buyers became friends. “He was kind and decent in a world lacking in kindness and decency.”

“I bought many books from Steve over the years and can attest he was a fine, friendly man. He will be missed,” wrote Greenie Greenberg, who sent us the photo.

Read the entire obituary below (click the image to enlarge it). Another bookseller a little farther uptown, Steven Hann, also passed away from Covid-19.

NEWS | 23 comments | permalink
    1. ben says:

      may Steve rest in peace.

    2. Bruce Bernstein says:

      very very sad. What a great guy he was, and a wonderful neighborhood fixture. He will indeed be missed.

      He was also an awesome chess player. I never worked up the courage to take him on.

    3. Sarah says:

      Rest in peace, Steve.

    4. SophiaG says:

      Another hero gone too soon. We’re all in this together and that is our strength, right?

      • CityGirl57 says:

        yes that is our strength

      • Sherman says:

        It’s sad this man has passed away but how was he a “hero”?

        • SophiaG says:

          Not only a hero, but a role model for us all, especially our children!

        • DrM says:

          Sherman. Sigh. You just couldn’t let one soulful, respectful article go by without negativity could you?

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          he was a hero because he showed up to do his job every single day, rain or shine, despite, no doubt, making a very modest income; because he offered a beloved service to the community, and did absolutely no harm in doing so; because he befriended many, many people, including homeless; because he treated everyone exactly the same, rich or poor, native or immigrant, black, brown, or white; and because he was a stable and comforting fixture in the neighborhood.

          You can’t put a monetary price on any of these qualities, which might befuddle some people.

    5. NativeNYer says:

      A beautiful obituary for an elegant man who left his mark.

    6. Rosanne says:

      We used to give him duplicate and coffee-table books, etc. from our building library which he would collect periodically. In fact, we have cartons labeled For Steve. He was a true gentleman. RIP.

    7. Janis says:

      Never a time, when we walked past his table, did we not stop and peruse his offers.
      Often he’d give a discount on several purchases. But jokingly asking for a discount on just one purchase always elicited “hey, I’m an old man!” To which my husband would reply “we’re both old men.” And we’d all laugh….but pay his full price.
      Robert “Steve” Stevens will be missed. Another icon of the Upper Westside leaves us. May his soul rest in peace.

    8. CityGirl57 says:

      I posted this on my IG account back in April when I saw the sign. Never did buy from him but really appreciated his kindness and his presence on the street. All that wonderful rich character, these are some of the sad losses that permanently shift the neighborhood.. Sad when businesses and people suffer and close, but here a life..
      Stay safe. I do think in this area most people are taking this seriously . Glad to be here..

    9. Mikema says:

      This is so sad. I remember seeing him all the time. This virus is awful.

    10. jsfine says:

      I was one of his devoted customers: I gave books and bought books. He will be sorely missed played chess when it was hot during the summer!

    11. I am so very sorry to hear of his passing. He was always kind to me, a positive presence in our neighborhood. He will be strongly missed. May you find comfort in your memories. I’m sure his is at peace. We will miss him so.

    12. PT says:

      Very sad to hear about his death. Bought many books from him over the years. Always a gentleman and a pleasure to work with. I would buy the books and in many cases return them to him to resell after reading them. He will be missed. Always stoped to see what was new at his table.

    13. Sarah says:

      I hope someone is showing these comments to his family, so they know how fondly he was thought of in the neighborhood.

    14. Laure Johnson says:

      I am sorry to hear of Steve’s passing. He was a neighborhood fixture always glad to say hi. I had dropped off books quite a few times, and was glad to help him out. He will be missed.

    15. Rob G. says:

      Loved him! We spoke (or at least nodded and waved) to each other almost every day. I was always happy to give him books and magazines to sell over the years. RIP Steve, I’m so sad and will miss you.

    16. Meg D says:

      So sad to read this, he really was a bright spot on my daily trip to the 96 Street stop.