Commentary &Photos 13 Jan 2008 09:51 am

Mean Benches

- Has anyone else noted that the world has gotten meaner?

Remember the comic strip Pete the Tramp by C.D. Russell? no, it’s probably before your time. Pete was a tramp who stole pies from windows and got in trouble with the law. He was the typical hobo in comic strip form, and the strip started during the depression and lasted through 1963. I read it in color in Saturday’s NY Journal American.

Pete usually slept on park benches under newspapers and got his feet slapped by the cop. I noticed park benches this week and wanted to call attention to the way our society has handled tramps, hoboes, homeless people. In New York, they’ve made them uncomfortable.

This is the park bench I noticed.

It’s a bench in Madison Square Park, and I noticed it because it’s become a relic of the past. A person could actually sleep on it.

This is the newer model. The only way you could sleep on it is if you only had a torso. They’ve put dividers there, so it makes it handy to sit and not touch the person next to you, but you couldn’t really lie down on it.

See. There are lots of these now. Madison Square Park is made of mostly these benches, but there are still a couple of the old kind.

The new little park down on Bleecker and 6th Avenue only has this type of bench.
No vagrants wanted here.

Even the old, tiny private park on Bleecker has these newer benches. (I did see someone sleeping on them, but I couldn’t get close enough to photograph the way he mangled his body to get some sleep.)

A building up on 28th and Madison made sure no one could sleep on their public seating area.

Subway benches have also become completely inhospitable.

This type bench has very tight dividers. Wearing winter garb, one hardly fits into the space. However, these benches aren’t quite so bad in that the dividers aren’t mercilessly high.

Look at these uncomfortable things at West 4th Street. (Plenty of homeless used to be downtown.)

You could hurt your back trying to sleep here. Though, I have seen some people stretched out over these partitions. That’s how desperate it gets in the winter cold.

It’s not too much better on the subway. The seats are lumpy – shaped for the bum (I don’t mean vagrant-like bum) in bright colors. It’s a tight squeeze.

The few longer seats are “Priority seating.” This means bums have to get up for older people. I’m not sure what it means if the bum is an older person.

__________(Click any image to enlarge.)

18 Responses to “Mean Benches”

  1. on 13 Jan 2008 at 8:40 pm 1.Stephen said …

    As long as they are the oldest person they can stay on the seat untill some one older shows up.

  2. on 13 Jan 2008 at 9:00 pm 2.Tim Rauch said …

    wow! a truly bizarre photos post! i like it. im glad you’re thinking about these things for the rest of us, michael!

  3. on 13 Jan 2008 at 9:02 pm 3.Tim Rauch said …

    oh, and by the way, EVERYONE sleeps on the subway! see my blog post of subway drawings… at least them’s the ones i draw!

  4. on 18 Jan 2012 at 1:43 pm 4.Lisa said …

    I think about this A LOT. It’s not just the US. It’s in a lot of cities world wide. I’m glad someone else is thinking about it, too. There must be hundreds of ways to design a seat so people can’t lay on them. Paris has some great examples. I’ve seen some interesting ones in Chicago, too. Sometimes it’s as subtle as not a bench, but a landscaping cap on a tilt or something, too.

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