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Some People Can't Stand Park Benches

Residents along Piedmont Avenue say two benches are causing crime near their condos.

Some people can't stand a pair of benches at . 

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  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."

Other Solutions

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. 

DAP July 06, 2011 at 03:46 PM
A surveillance camera with a live video feed to a website would work wonders, as it should be for all the cameras. All the residents in the condos there would have something to watch. We have the technology.
Tim July 06, 2011 at 03:47 PM
It's worth noting that Councilmember Wan, the zone 5 commander at the time (Major Williams) and Yvette Bowen (CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy) all agreed that simply relocating the park benches further away from these residential buildings was a wise idea. The proposal was vetoed by Commissioner Dusenbury. There is no dispute that these particular benches have (for one reason or another) been selected as the gathering place for a dangerous element. Even Commissioner Dusenbury admits that. The question becomes how best to deal with it. Absent the ability to relocate the benches farther away from our homes, I hope that valet parking at the Willy's and Quattro lot as well as a well-placed security camera will help the situation. I hope the City and the Park act immediately to make this happen. The valet parking proposal has been around for over a year now! It's time to act.
MidtownJoe July 06, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Commissioner Dusenbury: In a time of tight budgets, isn't moving a few park benches deeper inside the park a lot more cost effective than installing cameras and monitoring? Furthermore, moving the benches would help prevent crime; cameras would only document that the crime had occured - not stop it. Get over yourself and listen to the neighborhood residents for what is best.
Chris H July 06, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Commissioner Dusenbury, would you want thugs hanging out in your back yard? Just move the bench. I don't see a big deal at all.
carla July 07, 2011 at 02:59 AM
no kidding dusenbury..... move the bench. they do invite "loitering" and trouble when secluded. close to a residence puts those who live there in a position to feel unsafe. and they have all rights. "loitering" simply takes up space. and behind them, is the litter they leave behind at the least. pay attention to the important people in the neighborhood!!!!!
Patrick July 07, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Now that I have read this article, I realize that I agree with these folks. I frequently cut through the park on the path by these benches. For some reason, there always seem to be sketchy people hanging out around this particular area of the park. Seems logical to me to remove the benches for a while and see if the crime problems get better. No big deal.
Sarah July 07, 2011 at 12:43 PM
I walk in the Park, often early in the AM and there are usually 2-3 men sitting on that bench just behind Piedmont Crest. You feel threatened and insecure when you pass. You know they are looking at you and you get the feeling that you are not safe. It's an errie feeling and you are just glad you got by them. Some times you hear laughter just after you pass. Other times you glance over just to clear yourself and notice that their eyes are following you. As a female, it's a very uncomfortable feeling. You're just praying that you get by them safely. Moving the benches seems like such a simple, inexpensive solution. Why not put citizens at ease? Why not move the benches or try moving just one to see what happens? What is the harm in that?
Joe Maxwell July 07, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Thank you Amy for covering this matter.
DAP July 07, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Why do you all assume that moving the benches make the sketchy people go bye-bye? Simply displacing the sketchy people to a different residential area is not leadership but whack-a-mole.
MidtownJoe July 07, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Where's the leadership in doing nothing at all?
Scott Sykes July 07, 2011 at 03:58 PM
So Dusenbury (Atlanta Parks and Recreation Commissioner) gets to decide where and if a bench is to be located within Piedmont Park and not Yvette Bowden (Piedmont Park Conservancy President) who of course is only responsible for raising $60 million in private funds for the parks improvements, which include benches.
Sarah July 07, 2011 at 05:15 PM
not suggesting that the benches be moved to another "residential" area. There are plenty of other places to move them.
Tripp Crosby July 07, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I take my dog to this exact area 2-4 times a day. There have been multiple instances when it was obvious that a few of the guys hanging out were intoxicated. This is not safe for us residents or any passing through civilian. It's also just disappointing to pay for prime real estate only to feel at times like I live in a slum. I don't know what the solution is, but I know it's not simply moving these guys a few feet away to another bench.
donna bockhorst July 07, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Donna I'm not suggesting to get rid of the benches, simply move them to another part of the park. Why would Dusenbury suggest spending tax payers money to put up cameras when a group of citizens are willing to pay for the simple relocation of a bench? I agree, get over yourself and move the bench please.
Tavenner July 07, 2011 at 06:27 PM
As a woman who frequently walks alone, I avoid these benches when anyone is using them, instead going the long way around even in the middle of the day. I have had a guy get up from the bench and approach me with an image of a splayed nude woman looking for a reaction from me. I have been panhandled and heckled and menaced by groups of men. A camera will not stop this subtle behavior because there will be no follow-up. None of this warrants prosecution until something much worse happens.
Tavenner July 07, 2011 at 06:32 PM
My vote is for "no benches," but perhaps a solution the officials need to consider is "more benches." Small ones comfortable for a singleton or cozy for a pair. Less appealing to groups of 5-9 loiterers.
Nepomuk July 07, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Seriously, these seem to be the only benches in the park that attract an unseemly crowd, and they are right next next to buildings that have a unusually high level of crime. Moving the benches just makes common sense. If the benches can't be moved, we need to start wondering why we aren't willing to do the easiest things to make a neighborhood better.
Leonard Copp July 08, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Um ... if the benches weren't there, what's to stop these "tough thugs" from, uh, sitting down on the ground? Really? Would that be too tough for them to do if the benches weren't there? Really?
MidtownJoe July 08, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Yes, Leonard it would be. They'd move on someplace else which is the goal. How about we give it a shot? Really? No, I mean really?
Chris H July 08, 2011 at 06:34 PM
A thug won't sit on the ground and get his underwear dirty. You know, cause his pants are hanging down to his knees.
CalebL July 09, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Definitely get rid of the benches, because black people sit on them, and they're sketchy
MidtownJoe July 09, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Do you always make racist, idiotic comments or just when hiding behind the internet's anonymity?
Tim July 09, 2011 at 07:33 PM
It doesn't matter if you're white, black, asian or latino. If you're regularly drinking alcohol in open containers; buying, selling or doing drugs; harassing people as they walk by; assaulting people with guns or other objects; breaking into cars; stealing bikes; peering into windows; attempting to break into a secure building; urinating or defecating in the bushes of private property; disturbing the peace after park closing with loud, drunken arguing; or a multitude of other illegal acts - then you have to expect that the neighborhood will do everything in its power to put a stop to it. These are all regular incidents behind our building. It doesn't matter to me who is doing it. It only matters that we try and put a stop to it.
Tim July 11, 2011 at 07:33 PM
How about the building owners just put up a fence? That way they would take the iniative and stop the questionable groups from coming on to their property. And best of all they would not need the park's permission to do it.
MidtownJoe July 13, 2011 at 02:36 PM
As this would block access to the park, it's not a viable solution.
Tim July 20, 2011 at 07:26 PM
MidtownJoe - how would a fence around the buildings that are concerned block access to the park? Lots of buildings and houses have fences, along with gates.
MidtownJoe July 20, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Tim - are you sure you know exactly which buildings and walkways we're taking about?
Tim July 20, 2011 at 08:47 PM
I guess there are two Tims on here. It's odd that this website allows two identical user names. Anyway, the Tim who made the last two posts is not the same person as the Tim who made the first two posts. First, you can't just put up a fence without permission. There are city ordinances that govern that, and a permit would be required. Second, there is a fire lane between our building and the park that we can't fence in, as it's a fire lane. So it's not possible to do as the second Tim suggested and simply erect a fence around the backside our property.
Clicker July 20, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Anyone who says that these benches are not attracting thugs to this part of the park has never been to this part of the park. That includes you Dusenbury.
Tammy February 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I guess y'all don't recall back in the 1990's when people used to sleep under the ring of Bradford Pear trees in that area.

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