Benches Removed From Firehouse at 14th and Newton St. NW

IMG_1539, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Back in July we had a Dear PoP discussing this location that provoked 114 comments. A reader mentioned that the benches had been removed and I stopped by on Monday to check it out. Not a soul was around. I don’t mean to start the same conversation again, but do you think these benches shouldn’t have been placed next to a firehouse in the first place?

Seeing them removed made me think of the protest benches I posted about last week.

42 Comment

  • I’m really curious to find out who authorized their removal and why.

    I support their removal if everything I heard about them was true. I only rarely saw the bums hanging out in front of the firehouse.

  • This is stupid. This is how parts of the city became the people-unfriendly areas they are. So bums hang out there.. they’re gonna hang out somewhere. Now no one has a place to sit, relax and talk in the open.

    Of all the places to have benches that might attract loiterers, this is second best to a police station. Before they were under a watchful eye.. now? Guess they can just kick it in an alley… away from neighborhood parents who know them and other authority figures that make them think twice about doing stupid sh*t.

  • P.S. – Installing a video camera, even in the window of a resident across the street, would have enabled residents or the firehouse to record ticket-able offenses (littering*, fighting, disturbing the peace/public intoxication, public drinking, etc.)

    An active neighborhood resident could spend an afternoon sifting through the video evidence on a laptop, stick it on a DVD, and hand it to a cooperative police captain, or prosecutor.

    There can only be 20 of these regulars at most. A few tickets (or arrests when warranted) and the knowledge that the camera is trained on them, recording evidence, and they’ll stop treating it like a hang out — the “bums” that is — and shape up or find somewhere else to burn out. The teenagers will temper their behavior just like they do in front of their parents or the police.

    Not that the cement blocks were anything to look at, but at least they were a place to relax in the open.

    The issue w/ chairs and grilling… that was just laziness on the FD. Its their property, they can eject anyone, and without creating a fuss by just laying down basic rules like “no chairs, no fires.”

  • Great. Where am I supposed to loiter now? Because I’m not allowed in either Proof, Veritas, Cork, or Enology until I take a bath. I guess it’s back to Vinoteca then.

  • Isn’t a small concrete park a block or so north on 14th St. where the bums can hang out?
    You know the one, with the bus stop on the corner.

  • Yeah, I have a lot of sympathy for those who don’t want to have antisocial behavior in public. But I also really don’t like having neighborhood amenities removed – rather than letting offenders know their behavior is unacceptable. Now if these guys were just sitting there talking, then they have a right. But if they truly were drinking, urinating, smoking dope, etc. then they need to be held accountable. Removing community amenities like benches is just a cop out (even if it does take some effort on the part of the city/MPD)

  • I never saw what I would consider to be a bum hanging out there. People definitely loitered and definitely made me feel pretty uncomfortable when I walked by, alone. They also weren’t benches. They were wall height and people just sat on them, waiting for somebody or something. I’m glad they’re gone.

    That firehouse is supposed to be a safe place for kids – why would you want anyone – of any kind – waiting around outside?

  • and by wall height, i mean they were walls – there was nothing that could be considered a bench that i ever saw

  • As someone with a minor disability that makes it tough to walk long distances without sitting every so often, I hate the fact that so few areas of the city have somewhere to sit. On the other hand, as soon as you put a bench up, people start living on it. Its interesting how our urban geography is shaped by loiterers. Note most carry outs seem to exist because few fast food restaurants want to make a hang out spot for the permanent trashmongers we have. If there was any enforcement of the nuisances which actually define our perception of loitering (ie littering, drinking, threatening violence, etc) things might change. Then again, maybe not.

    Also, CB, it wouldn’t help to do the video camera thing, the police generally just ignore publicly submitted evidence. Are you telling me that no MPD ever went by the bumfest when it was in progress? Face it, we don’t enforce most of those sorts of laws because, well, it would be hard and loiterers vote too. Or their mothers do, or whatever.

  • I’m on the side of those who are glad the benches are gone.

    Some fast-growing urban trees lining that corner would be great. Casey Tree Foundation, anyone?

  • If those benches were simply a respite for persons looking to get off their feet or find refuge for the night, that’d be one thing. But, as a female resident of the neighborhood, it is extremely uncomfortable to pass the area when there is often a group of men gathered at night. The corner is also poorly lit, so coupled with verbal taunts…it doesn’t lend for a safe feeling for this resident.

  • Now where am i going to sit and eat my arby’s? When does the new Arby’s go in in DCUSA again?

  • Hey CB, that corner is not fire department property.

  • It didn’t feel safe because it *wasn’t* safe.

    Relax folks, let’s wait to see what the final product is… There was a large construction crew working on the site this morning; it is included in the 14th street improvement Master Plan.

    This past weekend I visited the new dog park on 17th and S street; what a fantastic park! It would be great to see something similar built where the “protest bench” park is currently located – the lot is the same size. Why should Dupont Circle have all the fun?

  • NO MORE DOG PARKS! Parks should be for people. Dog parks end up smelly, dirt patches.

  • Dog-owners pay taxes too. We should have dog parks.

  • But dogs don’t pay taxes. Neither, presumably, do bums. Interesting how the former gets parks given to them, while the latter have them taken away. Dogs are more equal than bums, apparently.

  • It’s re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The REAL problem is that we have a significant population of bums, typically people with untreated mental illness aggravated by “self-medication”.

    I like how we’re spending trillions (TRILLIONS!) of dollars to “protect our Freedoms” in overseas conflicts of dubious relevance, but we can’t be bothered to provide a basic health-care infrastructure for the poor right here in our capital.

    Somebody needs to convince the bums to take up residence in and around the various House/Senate Office Buildings, as well as the Wilson building. Heck, I might even make up cards to hand out to them.

  • If we remove dog parks, I also want to see no more tennis courts, soccer fields, childrens playgrounds, signs for blind pedestrians, speed bumps, emergency evacuation signs, or anything else destined for specialized and narrow constituencies. Bah! Humbug.

    And note my dog does require a $15 license in DC, which bums don’t pay. Start licensing bums and I’ll give them the same dues I give dogs.

  • voiceofreason, the new dog park north of dupont is special doggie astroturf, it won’t turn into a smelly dirt patch. Say what you want about having dog parks, but people walking dogs are the kind of benign pedestrian presence that a lot of marginal neighborhoods need.

  • Why have dog parks?

    – They’re equally valuable for the dogs as much as they are for the dog-owners (who DO pay taxes).

    – Dog parks increase property value.

    – They are good for community-building. They are an informal forum for neighbors to discuss community issues.

    – The presence of dog-owners increases neighborhood vigilence and cuts down on crime.

  • The benches were just removed this past week and the construction is continuing (waking me up this morning at 7am). It seems that they have a larger plan in site besides just removing the benches. Anyone know what they are actually doing?

  • I agree. What’s called for here is bum licensing and registration, preferrably via an expensive bureacracy and unenforceable legislation. The Mayor should immediately move to pass emergency funding for the creation of the DC Department for Vagrant Licensing. Upon payment of the $50,000 annual fee, bums would have free use of parks, playgrounds, and treeboxes for late night screaming matches and public defecating. Failure to produce proper bum identification would result in a fine of a buhzillion dollars, checks being made payable to the Fund to Re-elect Adrian Fenty. When confronted with this, the Mayor will deny any association, become indignant, and demand to know why the interviewer is not asking him about the great advances his adminstration has made in stonewalling questions he doesn’t want answered.

  • Kee-rist monkey, ain’t you found a VA blog yet? Go choke on a hokie. Damn federal do-nothings…

  • I really can’t imagine anyone defending the bums. I suppose my surprise at the swift action here could have been registered as tacit approval of the scum who refuse to get jobs or go to college, but trust me, it wasn’t.

    I’ve worked with MPD on a lot of issues, but CB doesn’t quite get it that a cop in DC is NEVER going to arrest his girlfriend’s cousin. We had to beg and cajole the police lieutenant to replace some cops on our beat who used to respond to the local drug crew with their police radio turned up full blast to warn all the residents they were coming. Those cops were purely racist and busted Latins with impunity while letting the drug dealers scatter with a warning. Once we replaced them we had several quick arrests and people are awaiting trial.

    It’s silly to think that someone with absolute power who views himself as the underclass will behave the way we think they should. It’s a situation rife with corruptive possibilities.

  • Personally I think that Monkey has enough blog-energy to be an artist-in-residence for every blog in the Tri-State area is he so chooses! What we need is a list of bog-gigs that Monkey will be playing over the week, along with a partial set-list.

    The Bumfest area is about two blocks from where I live- I am glad that the benches are gone, but like energy, the denizens cannot be destroyed and will simply change form and go somewhere else for Bumfest II: Electric Boogaloo!

  • I’ve lived in CH for 8 years and on this block of Newton for 5. Bums doesn’t even discribe what was going on at this corner. For example, a few months ago a man was so high that he was just lying in the middle of the road. (My husband picked him up and carried him to the sidewalk.) I have been flashed at this corner, and there was a lot of urination/defication/vomitting going on, too.

    Jim Graham has been trying to do something about this problem for a long time, and claimed that he was having trouble coordinating with the fire station.

    The strange thing is that a few days after the PoP post on the corner, the activity died WAY down, then they took out the benches, and now the concrete barriers. I’ve very happy, now I can walk down my own block without being harassed.

  • Hey, Anon 10:47, bikes don’t pay taxes, whereas my car pays its registration every year. I say no more bike lanes. Why should they have something given to them?

    Do you like that reasoning?

  • I’m reserving judgment on the removal of the benches, til we see what they DO with the space. It’s not enough to take something away. Something better must be put in its place in order to call it “progress”.

  • “If we remove dog parks, I also want to see no more tennis courts, soccer fields, childrens playgrounds, signs for blind pedestrians, speed bumps, emergency evacuation signs, or anything else destined for specialized and narrow constituencies. Bah! Humbug.”

    Sounds good to me!

  • “Hey, Anon 10:47, bikes don

  • Centzon, are you suggesting that the people doing this have some genetic predisposition to commit crimes? Isn’t that a little Eugenicist?

    When the drug crew on my block went to jail only then, after 10 years, did I see fathers smack their adult sons in public and yell at them to get jobs and only then did I see these kids thrown out of their houses and go live somewhere else.

    The idea that we’re “pushing” problems elsewhere just isn’t true. When a family member that others just want out of the house suddenly has nowhere to go then Grandma and Grandpa realize “the last straw just broke the camel’s back” and something must be done. Does it happen 100%, no, but what if it happens 50% of the time? What if out of the 14 serious offenders, 7 of them stop drinking, start hanging around better peers, go back to college or get decent jobs? then you have 7 people contributing to society.

    I’m tired of people suggesting that the poor don’t have the wherewithal to change their lives. they do every day just as the Doctor in Bethesda can see his life spiral out of control due to drugs.

  • Unpopular as it may be, I’m also very glad that the concrete blocks were removed. For some of us who actually live on that corner (especially those of us who are young and female and walk home from the metro late at night), it was a sight for sore eyes to see them gone. Every day, walking back from the bus stop, I’d scan the street ahead and if I saw a group gathered there, I’d have to mentally steel myself against the taunts and comments from groups of guys that were gathered there, hanging out on the blocks, talking on their cell phones, and generally making me feel apprehensive on my own turf. I mean, I expect that kind of stuff if I’m walking past a construction site wearing something short and tight (which I never do, by the way), but to have to deal with it every day is annoying and unwanted.

  • These benches were attracting people who made the neighborhood unpleasant for many other people, mostly women. I walk by there everyday and it wasn’t a nice scene. By removing the benches, we’re making the neighborhood a better place.

    This doesn’t have to be some grand social commentary. We need not consider the existential plight of the hobo when coming up with fire station bench policy. The actions of the people who sat on those benches were unfortunate and removing the benches was a fantastic idea.

    If you’re super-concerned about DC hobo policy, let’s move beyond benches.

  • Dude can we really have bum licenses? I would love to have one of those.

  • Thank you, He-Man’s Gay! Let’s treat the removal of the benches as what it is and nothing more. I live across the street from the firehouse and are glad to see them gone. The garbage, urination, people passed out on the sidewalk, etc., all happened on a regular basis. This corner was at the least gross and at worst dangerous.

  • Passive-aggressive DC can’t just come out and say

  • The bums were here before most of us.

  • And the white folks were here before the minorities — doesn’t make segregated housing that existed for generations right. Just as it doesn’t make it right for women to feel threatened by a constant stream of harassment, taunts and threats. No one has any “right” to any particular “tuft.” Being a citizen of a community carries with it both privileges and responsibilities. If you can’t act as a responsible member of a community, and harass or create a public nuisance to other members of a community just hoping to live their lives in peace, you really can’t bitch and moan when the location you employ as a base for such harassment or nuisance making is displaced. I want as much public space as possible for as wide a variety of people as possible to be able to enjoy. But if you create a public nuisance, then you are ruining others’ enjoyment of the public sphere, and you should suffer accordingly. Simply as that.

  • Meant to say, “turf.”

  • It’s never as “simple as that”. Displacing people, instead of working together to find a decent solution breeds contempt and discord. This decision will come back to bite people in the ass even with the short term solution of the problem of harassment. The harassment will return, a block away or spread out to more blocks, or in a different form, within a few weeks. As someone above mentioned, we’re just shifting deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • wonderful example of DC-think:

    we have progress because we removed three benches where actual people could sit down, but the good news is we have a NOTHER freaking dog park! whoopee. i suppose i shoud realize the dogs don’t require outdoor furniture.

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