Benched

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.

Benched: Vanderbilt Apartment residents lost their bench recently; building management say it was Romans’ decision; Romans’ says building management pushed for removal. photo by David Forbes

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 dforbes@mountainx.com.How

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12 thoughts on “Benched

  1. Barry Summers

    The closest one is now outside Featherheads Emporium on the other side of Haywood Street.

    I’m bothered that people have anywhere (free) to sit downtown. I think they should take out all benches, period. And places where people sit, but there aren’t benches to remove, like those steps in Pritchard Park, maybe they should put those spike strips like they use to keep pigeons off of buildings. Or maybe just more police, to enforce a three-second rule, like in basketball. If you’re not buying something or shooting the ball, you have to keep moving.

  2. Just Me

    I can just see it now. My mom getting a ticket for stopping to sit on her walker’s seat in downtown…

  3. Barry Summers

    I can just see it now. My mom getting a ticket for stopping to sit on her walker’s seat in downtown…

    If she keeps rolling, or is buying something at an outdoor cafe, she’s fine.

  4. Jim Shura

    I’m with you Barry- the benches should be coin-operated with spring-loaded spikes and other forms of medieval punishment. A small tank of napalm over the private benches would make things clear.

  5. This might be a crazy idea. How about more benches. Say two benches per block on both sides of the street. With more people sitting the unsavory element would be diluted. More benches might also encourage the unsavory element to wander about more if they had more sitting choices.

    If the city isn’t careful the unsavory element will be littering the streets with all kind cheap plastic chairs they have to drag around with them to be able to sit down.

    Now there is a flash mob idea. Hundreds and hundreds of all kind cheap plastic chairs littering the streets of downtown Asheville.

  6. lance

    Taking benches away from retirees, with PR like that there shouldn’t be a worry about “peak lunch hours” for too much longer.

    Somebody should turn the anarchists loose on them.

  7. Betty Santos

    I love the benches.It gives the town a welcome feeling and reminds me of the good days,when people cared about each other and took the time to talk a little while.It feels like home to me.

  8. Johnny

    My wife and our two young boys will miss being accosted and intimidated by vagrants on their daily walks downtown. Put the benches back!

  9. Barry Summers

    My wife and our two young boys will miss being accosted and intimidated by vagrants on their daily walks downtown. Put the benches back!

    Oh, they’ll still accost you, they’ll just be even grouchier because they had to stand all day…

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