The benches outside the Vanderbilt Apartments in downtown Asheville has been removed by Roman’s deli owner Roman Braverman due, he says, to landlord and customer complaints.
Often used by the building’s mostly low-income, elderly residents, the benches were the last public sitting spaces left near Pack Library until they were removed several months ago.
“Building management wanted the benches gone, because they felt it was just a bad crowd of people hanging out there,” Braverman told Xpress. “We even left one, at first, that was right in front of our window, but we had numerous complaints from our customers about them trying to eat and the people just sitting around and chain-smoking all day.”
The remaining bench has now been supplanted by outside seating for the sandwich shop. Asked whether the “bad crowd” were Vanderbilt residents or came from somewhere else, Braverman replied, “probably a combination of both.”
But building manager Flora Marr tells a somewhat different story, saying, “We’ve leased that spot to the tenant, and they decided to remove the bench.”
“A lot of residents have not been happy about it,” noted Braverman, adding that he was reluctant to take the step. “I’ve had a couple of e-mails from people who were disappointed, and I have to explain that this isn’t something that we forced. We wanted to keep [the benches] out there, but the combination of the people that were out there, complaints from customers, and the building management said they were done with those benches and happy to have a reason why they should not have them out there.”
However, Braverman emphasizes that there are still seating areas for residents behind the apartments and non-customers often use the outside seating, something his business allows when not during peak lunch hours.
Benches also sparked controversy in the area in 2008, when the city removed two of them from in front of Pack Library in response to concerns about crime and the homeless. The move prompted a small protest, but the benches stayed gone. The closest one is now outside Featherheads Emporium on the other side of Haywood Street.
David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.How