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City Council halts demolition of 3rd Street benches downtown

On Friday, crews were ordered to stop taking down the concrete benches on Third Street downtown that double as a homeless camp at night (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - There was a halt to demolition Friday on 3rd Street downtown.

Crews were ordered to stop taking down the concrete benches that double as a homeless camp at night.

Work started Monday and the benches between Elm and Race are already gone.

For now, that's where the work will stop.

The plan was to remove all the benches and trees along 3rd Street of Elm because of complaints about homeless people and what they were doing, out of sight, behind the benches.

The city's Department of Transportation and Engineering spent three and a half days tearing out the benches before City Council caught wind of it. Vice Mayor David Mann found out Thursday.

"This sort of plan has been implemented and City Council knew nothing about it," Mann said. "Now we don't have to know about everything but for the reasons I've expressed I think we should be involved when a decision like this comes along."

Mann was concerned because the bench demolition directly impacts Cincinnati's homeless population. The benches double as beds at night. A memo from city manager Harry Black indicates that a city panhandling task force claims that people are using the space behind the benches for lew and lascivious activities.

Activists for the homeless have also cried foul.

"It's appalling," said Mona Jenkins of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. "If there's an issue, it needs to be addressed in a better format There should have been full community engagement which includes talking to the residents."

The memo says downtown stakeholders and police have complained.

Workers, shoppers and passersby had few complaints on Friday.

"I think sometimes they can deter people from walking around," said Mark Faulhaber, who works downtown. "But I also think those people need a place to sleep and somewhere to go."

All work will stop until Mann's neighborhoods committee discusses it.

"Oh, by the way, this is a public infrastructure that we built," said Mann. "There was a cost attached to it. How much money did we spend building these benches and how much money are we spending to take them out? And help me understand why that makes sense given all the financial pressures on our budget."

Workers were out on Friday cleaning up what had already been demolished. The goal was to replace the concrete slab benches with seating that you could see through, so things would not be so private.

The plan was also to get rid of all the trees.

Mann says that will be a tough sell for the neighborhood's committee.

The plan was to tear out the benches and replace them one block at a time.

No demolition work has been done east of Race Street.

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