IC Bench Brewhaha

The new Ped Mall benches have sparked controversy in Iowa City.

"Why else would they put that there? I don't buy the story about the architecture," said Robert Perez.

The non-profit, Iowa City Catholic Worker House, tweeted a picture last week showing a man lying on one of the old benches. Police told him to leave and he did shortly after this shot was taken.

"This is yet another attempt to make the visible homeless invisible and try to erase their presence off the streets of Iowa City," said David Goodner of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House.

The city allowed the public to weigh in on these new benches during outreach meetings and said no one voiced any concerns. The city said the feedback the city heard was supportive of the extra armrest benches because they add seating.

"If there's someone you don't know, someone is going to feel more comfortable so to speak if they can have a divider or something to divide their space," said Senior Civil Engineer Scott Sovers.

Sovers said the city paid about $150,000 for the benches so to replace them would be money wasted.

"We're doing this to fufill a need," said Sovers.

Those who don't like the new benches believe the city should consider the needs of the homeless population.

"I was homeless for about five to six months," said Perez. "I was out here in the streets. I never slept on the benches, I found other places to go to sleep but there are people who have become my friends who do choose to sleep on the benches and feel like they have the right to."

Council has received letters from people asking city leaders to do something to change the benches. Councilwoman Mazahir Salih told TV-9 she'd support benches friendlier to everybody in the community but she wants to hear what the public has to say first. TV-9 reached out to other council members but hadn't heard back.

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