Broadway Bloc & Business Bosses Boo Bringing Back Benches

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Proposed benches are finding resistance all along Newport’s recently renovated street.

A quick glance at Broadway reveals that construction has come a very long way and that the bizarrely long-running project may finally be coming to an end. However, there are a few parts of the project that some local business owners and residents would prefer not to be finished. Namely, the installation (or re-installation) of benches along Broadway and around Equality Park.

The movement started last week when the Off-Broadway Neighborhood Association, lead by the always vocal Jack McVicker, began circulating a petition to prevent benches from being re-installed around Equality Park:

Petition to exclude benches from Equality Park
The undersigned nearby residents and friends of Equality Park are opposed to the addition of benches in the park.
During recent neighborhood meetings several points have been made:

    • The City Staff should checked with the Newport Police Department about calls to the park for public drunkenness, urinating, fighting, panhandling, and aggressive behavior to passersby. No known instances of these crimes have been reported since the benches were removed.
    • A simple walk by the park will show that the general trash problem around the benches disappeared with the benches.
    • The addition of new seating across the street in front of Dunkin Donuts is an adequate accommodation for seating.
    • The problem of “nip” bottles on the ground and in the curb is completely gone.
    • Passersby, especially woman, no longer have to detour around the park to avoid the unwanted taunts.
    • The condition of the benches…stained with alcohol, urine, feces, and food…make them unattractive to many people.
    • The problem of cigarette butts is completely gone. A return of this terrible nuisance will hamper the new system and will fill the voids between blocks.
    • Since the benches were removed there has been no community outcry to replace them.
    • If benches are ever brought back they should not be put on the Broadway side facing the street.
    • If benches are ever brought back they should be in the park and close when the park does.
    • If benches are ever brought back there is no need to start with three. Start with one and if it is not successful remove it.
  • Since the benches have been gone kids have been spotted playing in the park!

Please do not bring back the benches!

So that was about as subtle as shouting “IXNAY ON THE ANHANDLERSPAY!!!” with a bullhorn from the rooftops.

Yesterday ABC6 came down to interview Broadway business owners about proposed bench locations literally a block down from Equality Park. They apparently startled Caleb & Broad owner Rich “Richard” Willis, who, despite a look that screams “I DID NOT EXPECT TO BE ON TV TODAY!”, was able to make the point that the benches proposed outside his restaurant would impact the outdoor dining area that he’s only just established.

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Mary Wall, co-owner of Ben’s Chili Dogs, also voiced concerns.

The fact of the matter is that the people who have invested into the Broadway community and have endured the incredible inconveniences of construction over the last few years have to fear that the payoff for the price paid for Broadway’s renovation could be lost once the Broadway All-Stars start passing out on public benches in front of their establishments.

Once the streets are packed with tourists and elderly shoppers need a spot to rest before hitting another store, everyone will probably be willing to reexamine the issue, but in the meantime, the street has had a rather acute issue in recent years and it’s going to be a few more before businesses become less wary.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Broadway Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?