Bench in front of Vanderbilt Apartments removed

CORRECTION: In the first draft of this story, it was stated that the benches had been removed during July. The benches were instead removed over two months ago. Xpress regrets this error.

The owner of Roman’s deli has removed a bench in front of the Vanderbilt Apartments due, he says, to landlord and customer complaints. The benches — often used by the residents of the building, most of whom are low-income and elderly — were the last sitting space left in the Pack Library area.

“Building management wanted the benches gone because they felt it was just a bad crowd of people hanging out there,” owner Roman Braverman tells 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The last remaining bench has been replaced by outside seating for the sandwich shop. Asked whether the “bad crowd” were residents of the apartment or from somewhere else, Braverman replied “probably a combination of both.”

But Flora Marr, the building’s manager, says the impetus for the removal came from Roman’s.

“We’ve leased that spot to the tenant, and they decided to remove the bench,” she tells Xpress.

Braverman notes that “a lot of residents have not been happy about it. 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 them 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.”

This isn’t the first time benches — and their removal — have been an issue in the area. In 2008, a pair of benches in front of Pack Library were removed by the city due to concerns about crime and the homeless. The removal led to a small protest, but the benches stayed gone. The closest bench is now down the street in front of Featherheads’ Emporium, on the other side of the road.

— David Forbes, senior reporter

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43 thoughts on “Bench in front of Vanderbilt Apartments removed

  1. dankster

    Roman Braverman – who are you too judge who is “desirable” & “undesirable”. I see absolutely no reason to patronize this establishment upon reading news of such a cold hearted gesture & honestly hope others feel the same.

  2. Curious

    Are downtown businesses expected to have benches outside for tourists and shoppers to rest on?

  3. Adam

    @dankster: He doesn’t have to, the customers can do that perfectly well. If you customers complain about the crowd out front, well, then you better do something about it or lose customers. He has no obligation to give non-customers a place to sit down.

  4. who

    Isn’t that a city bench? Can’t only the city renove it? Very uncool. Who are these a-hole costumers? If there are, in fact, any wo actually complained. I hope Vanderbilt Apts. puts some seating of some kind out there so the people who live there can sit outside. They shouldn’t have allowed that in the first place. But we know how things are getting: if you don’t have money it’s your own damn fault, and you hve no worth or viability. This is in respect to the people who live in that building. Hell, those people should be removed from that building anyhow. That is prime property that can yeild some high dollars.

  5. Just Me

    Most of the Vanderbilt residents are people who have worked hard all their lives and played by the rules. They just didn’t get rich doing it. They are the future of the working to middle class. I guess people don’t like to be reminded?

  6. dpewen

    This is very sad … just like when they removed the benches from the front of the library. The people complaining have no compassion and they are very mean spirited. I will not be going to this eating establishment.

  7. Art Lover

    Benches are like children: They should be seen but not sat on.

    Benches are like public artworks. They are ment to be seen but not touched or used. If a bench is there and empty, it conveys a message of a quaint and friendly place. But if someone is sitting on it, the viewer is forced to think about the economic status of the sitter and possible criminal intent.

  8. Rebecca Sulock

    That bench has been there for years. It’s the Vanderbilt residents’ front porch. And they don’t have much.

    I ate a sandwich at Roman’s the other day, and there were folks sitting on it. We were both enjoying the fresh air. It didn’t bother me.

  9. dpewen

    please join me and boycott this establishment until the bench is put back!

  10. TokyoTaos

    dpewen – I’m with you! Roman’s has just lost my business until those benches are returned.

  11. L. Eileen Murphy

    Roman Braverman says, ” …we had numerous complaints from our customers about them trying to eat and the people just sitting around and chain-smoking all day.”

    First off, most of these people are retired so if they ‘just’ want to sit around all day and smoke I think that’s there prerogative. Second, I doubt customers are making this judgement since they’re just there for a short amount of time; they have no idea how long the people on the bench have been sitting there or will be sitting there. That’s Braverman’s own judgement projected onto his customers. The Vanderbilt residents have been sitting on those benches for at least the last ten years (which is when I began living and working downtown); it is their front porch as someone noted on another post and what give’s Braverman the idea that the interest of his business outweighs that of these folks. many of whom have lived there for YEARS! I can understand customers who are eating not wanting to be next to cigarette smoke certainly but their interests don’t outweigh the residents’. I have been a long-time customer of Roman’s (they are one of the few downtown restaurants with gluten-free options) but it seems to me they initially had many fewer tables outside. I’m glad their business has grown but I have a feeling they might begin to lose business until the benches come back at least mine!

  12. Jim Shura

    Roman’s is very good food. Very nice people work there. It’s a family business. Roman’s deserves their customers. Try it. That is all.

  13. L. Eileen Murphy

    Vanderbilt Apartments provides housing for the low income and elderly. Very nice people live there. It’s a place they call Home. They deserve a front porch. Let them have it. That is all.

  14. dpewen

    yuck, the food is not the issue here … it’s public relations. Won’t try it.

  15. Dirk Digglar

    Maybe the bench removal will discourage smoking and lack of activity for these low income people.
    Dont they need their checks for necessities, NOT cigs???

    I would imagine that Roman’s lease called for the benches to be removed to help his retail business, as it should have.

    We can only coddle people but so much. BooHoo.

  16. jay

    I am happy Roman’s is there. The people are great and the food is as well. Yes, the bench removal is unfortunate. I do not know that boycotting the business is the right choice because, by the time they are able to get the bench back, the restaurant might be closed due to less business.

  17. Doug Sahm

    The bottom line is that the owners of Romans work very hard to pay for that space and they have every right to do what is necessary, within what is stated in the lease agreement, to make the shop as accommodating as possible to its customers.
    Why not try to get the radio station (103.5 MAIN-FM) on the other side of the front door to put a bench out front for the residents? They do not even have to deal with accommodating walk-up business. Its perfect!

  18. Carrie

    I’m a huge fan of Roman’s. People have every right not to eat there because of a bench but it sounds, to me, that he has the right to use that space for his tables. I’m not sure what the big deal is… he is paying to lease that space and maybe sees using it for non-customers is hurting the business.

  19. F.A. John Doubleclutch

    I’d like to hear from some of the residents that have used that bench. How they feel in regards to this.

    I think we are going to get another ugly lesson in who are the politically affluent and who is the political effluent.

  20. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Would someone please explain the legal status of the spot where the benches used to be? Who owns that spot? Who can lease it? And from whom? Who manages it? Who has the right to use it? What is city/public sidewalk? What is private property? What/who is trespassing? Etc.

  21. goldens

    These people talking of boycotting and stuff like that…I’d like to see them own their own business and see what happens! It’s his place, for crying out loud. He can do what he wants for biz. Duh.

  22. Becky

    Older folks at the Vanderbilt and B Park tend to be on fixed incomes, health issues, and that sidewalk is their front porch. Feeling uncomfortable by the presence of senior citizens on fixed incomes, and maybe a (egads) homeless person or two, is an invitation to open your heart up some more, not remove the source of your discomfort. Unless they were blocking the door and panhandling a lot (which is what Eomeke had to deal with down at Malaprops), this is really, really mean. No more downtown grocery or drug store, and we’re getting too fancy in Asheville (apparently) for some blasted park benches in front of a disabled/senior citizen complex, so folks can set a spell, chat, get the sune they need, have a sense of community. Make it no smoking if that helps but what a rotten thing to do, taking the last benches away.

  23. Roman Braverman

    After reading the article and all the comments below I felt that there were a few things that needed to be said. The benches have been gone for over three months now, so it is weird to hear all the noise now. The smoking that was affecting our customers was the issue. In the begining we did ask some folks to stop smoking but they didn’t. The building management was also not happy with all the smoking in front of their entrance, so it was a joint decision. The city does not allow any smoking in all public areas, yet there are some that think it should be tolerated by a restaraunt around customers that are offended. We understand that these folks need a place to sit and there are benches in front of the civic center & on the side of the building. Also I heard that they are working on creating a sitting area behind the building. Back when we first removed the benches, we had quite a few residents come in and thank us, because some of the crowd they attracted “scared” them. There have also been many people that have asked us if it ok to wait for the bus or take a break on our chairs & we have never said no. We seem to be getting a lot of negative remarks for other bench removals that have happened in the past which have nothing to do with us. So before you make your decision on how to react to this story, please get all the facts not just something mountain x decided to portray. Rememeber we are a hard working, locally owned & operated business which provided jobs to 6 previously unemployed asheville residents. So either way you react someone will be affected. We are very aware of our community and it is impossible to make everyone happy, but we will do our best.

  24. dpewen

    Thanks for the explanation.
    I am concerned about the downtown citizens who are “scared” of people sitting on benches downtown. I protested the removal of the benches from the front of the library and two elderly ladies who live downtown told reporters they were “scared” of the people using the benches.
    Well, I used them and I am not that scarey …I just look scarey.
    The downtown citizens complaining are only scared because we look different and do not conform to their standards … how sad.
    I own a condo downtown and have many homeless friends because I have worked with them the past several years … none of these people scare me and they are harmless.
    I am ashamed to admit I live in a liberal city that has double standards and is sometimes very hypocritical.
    I will continue to be an advocate of the homeless and do whatever I can to open the eyes of the close minded people living here.

  25. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Would someone please explain the legal status of this situation?

    Who owned the benches? Who owns that spot of ground? The city? The apartment owners? The restaurant? Who can lease it? From whom? Who manages it? Is the management different from the owner of the building? Who has the right to use that ground and that air space, and who does not?

    What is the property of the city (public sidewalk)–and what is private property? Where does city sidewalk end and private ownership begin? What/who is trespassing and can be asked/told to leave?

    Why are these basic facts so hard to come by? Why is all this so vague?

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m just trying to learn what the controversy is all about. What it all comes down to is legal ownership of ground and use of space, which on the surface seems quite simple, but obviously it is not.

  26. Meh

    Give it a rest Betty. Roman explained enough. They are a good business and I hope they succeed.

  27. Carrie

    I’ll be eating at Roman’s tomorrow. Their stuff is so good!!!!

  28. Carrie

    And Betty, the answer to many of your questions is “not you”. It’s like you’re trying to make a big deal out of something that isn’t. Just let it be.

  29. non-smoker

    I’m more interested in the smoking starements. I know that the bad people smoke and in the current anti-smoking climate smokers don’t have a leg to stand on. I think that the whole anti-smoking thing ( smoking outside) is the one of the most irritating, self righteous, movements to come along in a while. Nobody has died from smelling cigarrete smoke outside, contrary to all the hype. It is called social scapegoating. And as I heard one so eloquently say, in the history of our world, more peole have died as a result of condemning and judgement and just plain unkindness than from cigarettes. I didn’t call for a boycott, personally, but , personally, I have a strong distaste for jumping on the bandwagon to marginalize other people. And to all of you self rigtteous, psycholigically weeny voiced, “I hate your cigarette smoke” social infants – screw you!

  30. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Meh and Carrie, evidently I came off the wrong way. I love Roman’s and wish we had more such places with sidewalk-cafe areas with sort of a French cafe feel. My questions were meant to be far more general about how any eatery in AVL and environs can use sidewalks for tables and chairs–permits and liabilities and such.

    Unfortunately, in this day of quickie journalism, so many short news items such as this one raise issues but do not give enough facts to be fully understood, which inspired me to see this situation as an opportunity to ask questions I have wondered about for some time–how to encourage more sidewalk cafes. After all, this is a forum?

    I should just ask the city since the discussion above is more emotional than informational, and I can see that there are underlying issues.

  31. dankster

    So Roman is saying the benches were removed 3 months ago,and Mountain Xpress has reported that this occurred last week ? I’m confused who’s telling the truth here,the mountain Xpress reporter or Roman? looks like Roman is either trying to save his face…or maybe the Mountain Xpress reporter has done a real bad job of reporting news in our community.
    Betty has 100% very very valid questions concerning this matter & the “city” sidewalk. I personally don’t think benches should be removed from around the city due to certain people being so called scared of other people – the city of Asheville 2 years ago created a police force downtown solely for the purpose of taking care of nuisances. Mountain Xpress should really address and tackle this “community issue” …

    No one person or group of people have the right to gentrify “our” city streets.

  32. Jim Shura

    This was a privately owned bench. There is another one at the other entrance to the building.

    Where was the outrage when CVS removed its bench to stop the mouthwash drinkers from hanging out?

    Betty- The remaining city benches on Haywood St. are the ones facing away from the street.

  33. Nikki

    The bench, space leased is owned by National Church Residence, don’t let the church mislead you-they do not care at all about their seniors, only the money they can generate from HUD or whomever.
    Battery Park Apts is also owned by the same. At one time there were large tables and benches at BP apts., however, Cuban Cafe leased the restaurant space and within a year–they were all gone and replaced with many of the little tables and chairs that Roman has. The sidewalk space is totally gone now and eventually the same will apply to the Vanderbilt space. Federal law mandates space for handicap, NCR and business owners do not care or abide by these. Yes the people living in both are on fixed incomes, some do smoke, but I really really take exception to residents being called undesirables, such disrespect, most of Asheville downtown look & smell undesirable, but we certainly love their money! I certainly hope the ones making these remarks about checks being used for necessities not cigarettes become one of the thousand of elderly people that did not have the opportunities of today–they just made them for us. Rotten nasty people, how many will give up their pot?? Anyway, I for one have written to National Church Residence and will take my business across the street to the WONDERFUL “Twisted Crepe” it is fantastic. Too many good restaurants to patronize one that can’t deal with the elderly or “scary” .www.ncr.org

  34. Nikki

    The bench, space leased is owned by National Church Residence, don’t let the church mislead you-they do not care at all about their seniors, only the money they can generate from HUD or whomever.
    Battery Park Apts is also owned by the same. At one time there were large tables and benches at BP apts., however, Cuban Cafe leased the restaurant space and within a year–they were all gone and replaced with many of the little tables and chairs that Roman has. The sidewalk space is totally gone now and eventually the same will apply to the Vanderbilt space. Federal law mandates space for handicap, NCR and business owners do not care or abide by these. Yes the people living in both are on fixed incomes, some do smoke, but I really really take exception to residents being called undesirables, such disrespect, most of Asheville downtown look & smell undesirable, but we certainly love their money! I certainly hope the ones making these remarks about checks being used for necessities not cigarettes become one of the thousand of elderly people that did not have the opportunities of today–they just made them for us. Rotten nasty people, how many will give up their pot?? Anyway, I for one have written to National Church Residence and will take my business across the street to the WONDERFUL “Twisted Crepe” it is fantastic. Too many good restaurants to patronize one that can’t deal with the elderly or “scary” .www.ncr.org

  35. Jim Shura

    You are missing the point, Nikki.

    The people on the benches who were causing problems were not residents of the Vanderbilt. They were not elderly either.

    Dig up some dirt on NCR. It’s a non-profit. Do the same for the landlord of Twisted Crepes.

  36. Piffy!

    What nonsense. All these people wringing their hands about the poor elderly folks denied their benches have NO idea what the facts are.

    those benches were inhabited by the local panhandeling mafia, not seniors.

  37. me

    I cannot believe that you people are still whining about those benches .Does anyone realize that all you have to do to find another bench to sit on is walk 250 feet . People are being killed for pocket change and you cry like babies about benches . Oh yeah I forgot that the uber liberal affluents cant see past the nose on the face .

  38. goldens

    is it the “uber liberal affluents”? or is it the “dreadlocked, don’t-believe-we-should-wash, unemployed-but-with-rich-daddies-and-mommies”? or is it the parents of the aformentioned, usually “die hard Republicans”? Let’s see, who else can we label?

  39. Amanda Braverman

    For those of you questioning my husband’s integrity, please scroll back up to the top of the page and read the correction by Mountain X. I would like to clear a few things up for the sake of the truth, and the fact that it hurts me to think that we will be boycotted because of false facts. The benches are owned by Vanderbilt. Had they been owned by the city, no one would have been able to smoke on them anyway. Also, I don’t believe the Mountain X reporter meant to give false info, however, he didn’t even care enough about this issue to personally come down here. He didn’t ask when they were removed either, nor did he notice over the past 3 months. He simply called and said that he had heard the benches were removed, and asked why. He never even spoke to any residents to ask how they felt about it. He just wrote a general article about benches being removed around Asheville, and that we happened to remove “the last remaining bench.” Had he actually come down to Vanderbilt, he would have seen the bench right in front of the Civic Center, the one on the side and also the one in the back of the building which has a much better veiw than the ones in the front ever did. The elderly here are kind to us, and we have been kind to them. Most of them probably don’t even know that they are being defended so passionately over something that many of them don’t even see as an issue. It is very hard to start up a business, but it doesn’t compare to being blindly judged.
    I don’t mean to get to personal, but I lost my mother to colon cancer due to a lack of education about good food. That is why we started this restaurant. We thought we should do our part to provide something better for people. So to say that we don’t care is personal. I would just ask that in all your good intensions, you don’t push someone else down while trying to lift someone up. Thank you for your time.

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