Help Solve the Mystery of the Columbus Avenue Footprints

By Carol Tannenhauser

For months, a stretch of sidewalk between West 74th and West 75th Streets on Columbus Avenue was undergoing a major renovation, so carefully done that workers built an impressive bridge over it.

Photograph courtesy of Beth Israel and Paisley Shaler, of The Shade Store.

The day after they took the bridge down to expose the new, gleaming-white sidewalk, this is how it looked:

What? No!

If you look carefully, you’ll see that the footprints in the cement are very narrowly placed, and small; I tried to walk in them, but my size seven sneakers were too big, and the steps were so far apart that I had to leap to reach them.

Why would the workers take the bridge down before the cement was dry? Was the culprit a woman or child, based upon their shoe size? Did the long steps indicate they were running? Was this an accident or intentional? Whose footprints encased in cement are these?

Any information or speculation is welcome in the comments. There are five (size small) West Side Rag T-shirts waiting for the five most imaginative — or obvious — answers.

ABSURDITY | 55 comments | permalink
    1. Leon says:

      Let me kick this off by ruling out the Riverside Park goats.

    2. Tom says:

      We’ll have to investigate this one step at a time.

    3. Abbie says:

      Nancy Pelosi running for hairdresser’s appointment and $15.00 pint of ice cream!

    4. S. Hayes says:


    5. Le Pink Panther says:

      Une réponse facile, mais en anglais:
      These are single impressions spaced far apart! Therefore, they are obviously the work of a one-legged person hopping up the avenue!
      U.R. most welcome!
      Jacques Clouseau

    6. Michael says:


    7. S says:

      Someone tried to do a “”two step” dance move but “misstepped”.

    8. Nick H says:

      It’s an invisible sculpture. (Duh…)

    9. Gonf says:

      Clearly the work of the great, long, red-legged scissorman.

      That or bedbugs.

    10. MAD says:

      Some of the prints are from a left foot shoe, alternating with those from a right foot shoe. And they are widely spaced, which indicates the mysterious stepper is either very tall or floats above the ground with some sort of foot stamper. Oh, heck — who knows??

    11. Mark Permann says:

      The only remaining footprint (WSR’s own words!) of Ethan Freckles.

    12. LD says:


    13. Cato says:

      Australopithecus afarensis. See .

      The proximity to the Museum of Natural History confirms the connection.

    14. Josh P. says:

      New evidence suggests ancient tourists waited in line for Levain’s even longer than their modern descendants.

    15. BDB says:

      As an upper Westsider we hate everything and I hate this!

    16. John says:

      These are obviously the long-lost steppes of the UWS-SSR.

    17. SR says:

      Frustrated artist who volunteered as a banner untangler at The Gates in hopes of meeting Christo and launching a successful career. Didn’t happen. Saved pole. Has been creating anarchic art installations around the city since then, this time by sticking shoes at the end of the Gates pole and leaning over the side of the bridge.

    18. Mark Moore says:

      Mary Poppins

    19. Tom says:

      Someone with only left foot. 🤔

    20. Owlbert Zimmerman says:

      Little Foot!

    21. Truth and Reason says:

      It’s like the Cask of Amontillado of sidewalks. Whose feet are they?

    22. Tessa says:

      I’m betting it was the workers’ own inside job, done by hand (not by foot…) and well before the bridge deconstruction unveiled their art project.

    23. Ed says:

      Or as Sherlock Holmes might say: “Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

    24. Matt G says:

      I’m positive it’s the same person that’s been trying to contact me about my vehicle’s extended warranty.

    25. J says:

      The artist signed their work – there’s a handprint and a small smiley face in the corner of this section of cement. A cool UWS mystery!

    26. Bill says:

      Now after the Covid-19 pandemic has abated a bit, these are the first steps in the return of shoe-business.

    27. Rob Godley says:

      They are definitely the Wicked Witch Covid’s footprints being run out of the UWS.

    28. Ish Kabibble says:

      Hopalong Cassidy?

    29. Pearlman Katie says:

      Someone on stilts obviously did this on purpose after they gauged that the cement was just dry enough or wet enough to do this quickly and get away. Perhaps a retired member of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus?

    30. Cynthia Parzych says:

      It’s the Wicked Witch of the West(side).

    31. Steven says:

      It looks like the footprints you see in Scooby Doo.

    32. Susan F says:

      It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away to shake shake!

    33. Susan F. says:

      Daniel Day-Lewis sequel entitled “my two left feet”.

    34. Auntie Depression says:

      Semi Social Distancing.

    35. HELFRICH-YOOD, Ruth says:

      Clearly left by the elusive legendary creature, Smallfoot.

    36. Steve Reiness says:

      Watch the movie Gaslight (1944) – that will explain this.

    37. Brunnhilde says:

      There’s a game afoot, here!

    38. Jan says:

      One small step for ……

    39. NP says:

      We need to tread lightly before jumping to conclusions.

    40. World Peacenik says:

      I confess.

    41. cma says:

      A deeply inner soul/sole, this sidewalk phantom.

    42. Robin Rice says:

      “Don’t look at us!” say the raccoons. We’re too busy emptying garbage cans than to fool around with nonsense like this.

    43. Larry D says:

      Clearly an artistic homage to Julia Haart’s shoe line.

    44. P.K. says:

      “When you saw only one set of footprints,
      It was then that I carried you”

    45. tim says:

      Locals stay in their lane.

    46. Sunny's Mom says:

      Obviously not a skilled Hopscotcher,… clearly the line has been stepped on!

    47. Anne says:

      Someone who’s well heeled left these prints.

    48. JD says:

      The ghost of Peter Stuyvesant