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City Commission Votes to Remove Benches at Five Points

The removal is for a three-month trial period starting when the smoking ban goes into effect.

Just last month the Sarasota City Commission in Selby Five Points Park. The city would space benches out to discourage massing of people. 

Three new commissioners and a month later, the benches are now slated to be dismantled and removed after a unanimous vote on Monday. 

"I feel we’ve reached a critical mass," said newly elected Mayor Suzanne Atwell. "We need to look at what happens over the next few months. What I’m finding is, we’ve reached a level where we need to do something."

Earlier in Monday's meeting three concerned citizens, including Jim Lampl, presented a packet to the commission that showed the spacing of benches did not have the desired result. He showed various pictures of masses of people gathering around park benches. 

He requested the city remove the benches for a trial period to see what effects their removal would have.

"Although it's legal to use the benches, [transients] are there for six and eight-hour shifts," Lampl said. "The essentially monopolize the bench for the entire day. 

"Even though we've gone from six [benches] down to three, we still have massing," he added. "It really hasn’t cured the problem."

Lampl cited the removal of benches around the shell fountain at Lemon and First Street as an example of how removing benches didn't hurt, but helped downtown. 

The commission agreed.

"There is a difference between helping and enabling people," City Commissioner Shannon Snyder said. "[We need] to be going after the enabling part and not affecting the other part."

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said removing some of the benches has shown some progress but more needs to be tested. 

"There has been some progress with some of the benches being moved," he said. "But to fully realize the potential, they would all have to be removed for a period of time."

The City Commission voted 5-0 to removed the benches for a three-month trial period starting when the already goes into effect later this summer. 

Raquel Magana May 22, 2011 at 03:32 PM
The only way to make a decision in tryth is to first accomplish an experiment in which all of the folks with a voting "right" in this are put to the test of what being homeless entails. Imagine the ego that you would not have... the sense of loss, injustice, and sadness that a homeless person endures daily. These benches give them a sense of belonging to our community as they sit a watch, and hope for a day when they can be in different shoes. The overcrowded shelters and their rules of who and what and when... imagine that being your position to be trapped in. This is the true reason for the removal of the benches, it is truly the removal of what you are proposing are equal to dogs. Why not just call the pound then instead of taking metal, painted green, benches out of the brick they sit upon? THEY ARE people.... even if ever so small in comparison to yourself. They have dreams too. Changing the approach to appreciation of their lives would mean a possible seat back for your fat asses. Give them some hope by talking - saying hello - small talk - hey! I bought you a sandwich when I went for my own lunch today, are you hungry? you can give it to a friend if not.... - make a positive influence on the world and start right in front of you. Let the benches stay. Make a stand for the human factor.
TJ May 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Transients were a part of the downtown area BEFORE the benches were put there. Anyone who has lived in our beautiful county for years would know that they hang out at the library. That did not stop the construction of our new libary at its current location. While all of you are busy analyzing the difference that it has made since you removed the benches, thought I might share a little insight and perhaps shift your focus a little. Public transportation aka: bus line; people come and go all day long in and out of the downtown area. Why don't you now redirect that bus route downtown and do another study, see if that helps the situation. Just keep up with your creative thoughts and studies, just to let you know, your prejudice has resulted in a direct discrimination of a class of people you feel do not belong in society. The percentage of these transients verses the citizens who have lost their privilage because of a select few who believe they have done their due diligence in making a decision that has affected more than themselves, leaves the rest of us wondering whether you all have overstepped your boundries to satisfy your own agenda.
Donald Cogswell May 26, 2011 at 01:29 AM
The removal of the benches was a temporary move to allow time to get the smoking ban and feeding ordinance in place. If you don’t like it then I encourage you to put together your own petition and present it to the commission. Maybe you can get some of the vagrants to help… oh wait I forgot that would be work….
missy June 08, 2011 at 03:09 PM
The statistic is that the transient population makes up 1% of the population here in Sarasota yet they commit approximately 40% of the crime. Not hurting anyone TJ? Check again. The majority of the homeless I have personal encountered are affected by alcohol and drug issues, or severe mental health problems. They are receiving free bus passes supposedly to help them to find work, but that only turns the SCAT busses into a free place for them to hang with their buddies and escape the heat while reeking of alcohol and spouting profanities. If they truly wanted work they would find it without the need of a free pass. I also was approached by a woman trying to sell her free pass for drug money. Where did this crumbling of society begin? The men I grew up admiring, men like my father who had a strong work ethic, devotion to family, integrity, ambition and purpose, where did these men go? The street scum have none of these qualities, they are parasites who feed off government handouts and all they can steal. I have no sympathy for people who are lazy leeches on society.
TJ June 08, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Point is, benches were removed, they are not owned by the community that surrounds that area, they are owned by the taxpayers of the entire county. As for your crime stats, 40% of the crime in Sarasota County is not specific to transients, nor specific to the transients in the downtown area. Take a look at mapkeeper.com, it will update you daily on who is being arrested, most are citizens who live in sarasota county. The removal of the benches would not eliminate the transients from that area, they do not need benches to exist.

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