Open letter to the Iowa City Council: Do not change the Ped Mall benches

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The design of new benches installed in the Ped Mall has drawn concern that they alienate the homeless. Monday, Jan 7, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Dear Mayor and Iowa City Council members,

I am opposed to making changes to the Ped Mall benches for the following reasons:

1. The city provided an opportunity for citizens’ input, at which time anybody that wanted to attend and see the proposed project could offer suggestions.

2. The city has opposed sleeping in the library, and should enforce this rule on the Ped Mall as well.

3. The artistically painted benches currently have not been removed (as of this writing) and should remain. They do not have the middle bar impeding full use of the bench.

4. Lying on the benches takes up all of the bench, and others aren’t able to use any part of the bench.

5. Lastly, the cost to the city and our residents shouldn’t be absorbed in the project budget, recognizing that all residents of the city, including churches and nonprofit organizations, had the opportunity early on in the process to make the suggestions that are being made now.

I wish you well in your decision. Perhaps in the future, more residents, churches and nonprofit organizations will attend focus groups on other projects and pay close attention, keeping in mind the constituents they serve and represent. Being an advocate for persons with disabilities gives me the opportunity to make certain that the construction of the Ped Mall project is ADA (American With Disabilities Act, 1991) compliant and user-friendly.

Harry Olmstead, Iowa City

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  1. Harry, you make some good points. Are the artistically painted benches being replaced? You state that they are still installed. Do we know if they are going anywhere? I’ll have to say that those painted benches are pretty high on the list of my favorite part of downtown.

    1. Only some of the old painted benches remain in the areas of the Ped Mall that have not been renovated yet. They are on tap to be replaced in the coming year when the rest of the Ped Mall will be renovated.

  2. finally!!!! someone with a brain!!! and some common sense!! I also find it funny how i assume this project is being paid with local tax dollars and neither of which the homeless or non-profit church groups are paying any, so how do they get a say anyway?? if they have a say, then i think anyone that works downtown iowa city, but doesn’t live in iowa city should have a vote too. I still think we need to replace all the benches, just for the fact i’m sure they are already paid for and sitting somewhere waiting to be installed already. go harry go!! hope you attend that upcoming meeting. Oh and thank you LV for actually posting his letter that surprises me. greatly appreciated.

  3. Oh my good lord! You are completely missing point here bud. The pedestrian malls original intent was to be a place of community, and since then continued along this path(with a board game shack, ping pong tables and the fountain). But more recently(within the past 10 years) its had sculpture or landscaping bullshit added to it inherently making it hard for homeless to hangout or sleep there. But they are part of our community, they one of the peices of Iowa city, and only a product of this city’s negligent over development. They deserve to be in the ped mall just as much as any other miserable person in this city. And if you think for a minute that the city is not intentionally alienating the under privileged, then just look at yourself writing a flimsy open letter that’s actual only impact is to reaffirm this city in their choice to ignore and remove our citizens!

  4. I mostly heartily agree with Harry but, as much as I have loved the painted benches, it won’t break my heart to see them go. The new benches are beautiful and comfortable.

    Now if the police would actually do something to get the bicyclists and skateboarders OFF THE SIDEWALK. I’ve been hit twice. Start writing some tickets.

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