Frustrated residents discuss removal of Ghent park benches


by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 15 at 6:42 AM

NORFOLK--More than 50 people - angry that the City of Norfolk has removed benches from some of Ghent neighborhood parks - met Wednesday night to talk about the action.

At times, that talk got heated because they're angry for different reasons.

Some are mad they don’t have a place to sit when they walk through the park; others are upset the benches were removed without their input.

What they have in common is frustration at people who are mad the benches were removed at all.

Residents complained the benches attracted homeless people and illegal activity like drug dealing and prostitution, city officials said.

Councilwoman Theresa Whibley attended the meeting and shouldered the brunt of everyone’s anger.

Earlier this week, City spokeswoman Lori Crouch said there was a two-year study on ways to combat the problems and it was decided to remove the benches from Stockley Gardens, Stone Garden Park and Maury Park.

Mark Bonney, who’s lived in Ghent for 30 years, said he’s seen people drinking, using the bathroom and having sex, among other things. Sometimes, Bonney said, people would get out of control and police had to be called.

“It's a real drain on our city to have police coming out here to babysit grown adults who are taking advantage of the situation,” Bonney said.

Carrie White, who’s lived near Maury Park for seven years, says she's never had a problem with the people who hang around the park. She said she was shocked to receive a letter from her homeowners association saying the benches were being removed.

White, who said she has helped the homeless for years by providing water and other assistance, said removing the benches doesn’t help fix the real problem.

“We can move them, move them, move them, but, I mean, they're still people.  Where they gonna be,” White asked.