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The last remaining bench has been replaced by outside seating for the sandwich shop.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