Some people can't stand a pair of benches at Piedmont Park.
Residents from two condo buildings along Piedmont Avenue -- Piedmont Crest and Piedmont Park West Lofts -- say benches hidden behind their homes are causing safety issues in the southwest corner of the park.
They want city leaders to stand up for a solution.
"It's just been a real nuisance," Piedmont Crest resident Tim Cowlbeck said while sitting on the benches he believes bring crime to the area.
Located in a secluded spot with easy access to 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, the benches are a prime place for a rough crowd to gather.
"You kind of steer the other way when walking your dog," Stephanie Whitener, a resident of Piedmont Park West Lofts, said about the benches behind the condos near the Willy's Mexican restaurant.
"My biggest worry is that someone is going to get hurt there one day," Piedmont Crest resident Jose Pulido said.
Pulido, who manages the Midtown-based consulting firm The V2 Group, gave Patch a stack of incident reports recorded by the condo’s management team over the past two years.
A man, last August, was robbed at gunpoint on the front steps of Piedmont Crest, according to the reports. There also were reports of car break-ins, stolen bicycles and Peeping Toms. Pulido thinks the “bench gang” is to blame.
That's why the condo owners, for a year or more, have asked city, park and police officials to sit down and address the problems.
The residents' No. 1 request? Move those benches away from the condos.
"If they don't have anywhere to sit, they won't stand around," said Cowlbeck, senior programming director for Turner Broadcasting System. Residents even offered to cover all costs to relocate the benches.
But park leaders say the benches should stay put.
"The Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs does not support moving the bench in question," Commissioner George Dusenbury said in an email to Patch.
"Benches do not cause inappropriate behavior -- there are dozens of benches throughout Piedmont Park where no issues exist," he said. "National best practices for park operations is to maintain amenities, such as benches, that can be used by positive users."
Cowlbeck argues the benches are in "a unique location just feet away from two residential buildings," he said. Residents are "bearing the brunt of some serious crimes as a direct result."
Dusenbury does agree the benches sit in an area prone to safety issues.
"Unfortunately, the southwest corner of Piedmont Park between 12th and 10th streets has experienced inappropriate and illegal activity," he said.
Dusenbury said other solutions are in the works.
He said the city's parks department "is working with the Atlanta Police Department, the Piedmont Park Conservancy, Councilmember Alex Wan and residents to address the issue."
"We are exploring the option of installing a surveillance camera at the site in question, adding the camera to the existing network of six cameras in Piedmont Park. The city is willing to fund the cost of adding this additional camera. We currently are working with the [Piedmont Park] Conservancy and the Department of Information Technology to this end."
Dusenbury also said the conservancy is looking at implementing valet parking at the lot behind the ParQ and Willy’s restaurants "where we also have experienced negative behavior." The conservancy owns the building that houses the two eateries.
Pulido said Wednesday that conservancy CEO Yvette Bowden has agreed to meet about the valet service. Residents want action soon.
"We have met with them nearly a year ago after they agreed to allow the valet service and nothing has happened since," Pulido said.
Increased police presence is another option, Dusenbury said.
An Atlanta police officer lives near the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, he said. "We are in conversations with APD to have that officer provide a presence in the park behind the apartment building."
Zone 5 Commander Maj. Chris Leighty also vowed to look into the residents' concerns.
"We are going to walk the area and look at the concerns," Leighty said in June. "I have tasked Midtown Units as well as the FIT Team to investigate the complaints."
But at this point, discussions continue.
Cowlbeck said he hopes park leaders follow through on their proposals.
"Let's do something," he said.