The South Village lost an iconic friend last week in a gruesome accident along Sixth Avenue. Jessica Dworkin, 58, was struck by a tractor-trailer and dragged for two blocks under its wheels.
Dozens of pedestrians witnessed the collision. On the morning of Aug. 27, Dworkin began to cross Sixth Avenue on a foot scooter at the same time the 18-wheeler was turning onto the road from West Houston Street. The truck’s rear caught her and pulled her into its back wheels. Many onlookers chased the truck and screamed at the unaware driver, Greg Smith, but it took him until Carmine Street to realize that something had happened.
After Smith stopped the truck, he rushed out shocked and began crying, witnesses said. The driver now faces charges of failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
Dworkin was pronounced dead at the scene.
“She was a real neighborhood character. She gave flavor to the neighborhood,” said Soho Alliance director Sean Sweeney, who had seen Dworkin around town since she moved to her apartment on Thompson Street in the 1970s.
“Everyone knew of her,” a Soho shop owner added. “She was a staple in the neighborhood.”
Locals characterized Dworkin as an artistic eccentric, a South Village icon known for roaming the streets on her scooter, striking up conversations with the trees and changing her elaborate vintage outfits as many as four times a day.
“She was always a little bit disheveled, but had a shabby finery to her clothing,” Sweeney said. “She was very fashion-conscious in her own unique way.”
Sweeney recalled one of his first encounters with Dworkin years ago, when he and his girlfriend were walking back to his apartment late at night. She approached them on the street, and he expected her to ask for money. Instead, she pointed to his girlfriend’s shoes.
“Are those Ferragamos?” she asked.
“They look wonderful!” she declared, and continued down the street.
Dworkin’s past is mostly unknown. She reportedly said that she moved to the city from Massachusetts and claimed to have written for Interview and Details magazines. She had volunteered at the Judith C. White Senior Center for the past two years, and was described as kind, talkative and generally well-liked by employees at the shops she frequented along Thompson and Sullivan streets.
Many locals were unwilling to go into much more detail about Dworkin’s place in the community, though. “Her death really shook us up,” said one store employee. “The gruesomeness of it, the fact that we’ve seen her every day for years—I think many of us just need some time to work through this.”
A picture tribute to Dworkin was posted near her home. None of her family has been identified, but a local restaurant worker mentioned that a male relative of hers visited the neighborhood last Wednesday.
“Her death is a loss to the community,” said Sweeney, echoing the most common sentiment expressed by Soho, Greenwich Village and South Village residents. “Part of the neighborhood’s unique character went with her.”
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