Do ugly benches now forecast a sad future for Southpoint Park?


Ugly benches were not what Jim Bates had in mind when he made a simple request… If RIOC had to redesign Southpoint, he asked for seating comfortable for visitors with physical limitations.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

President of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, Jim Bates was as busy as he was dapper, driving his electric scooter around town. When asked about adding his wisdom and insight to a committee forming to evaluate Southpoint, he agreed.

Formed for assuring a community based plan, the committee worked alongside a professional team with a goal of enacting local preferences.

He passed away a couple of years later, but the Fitzgerald & Halliday redesign plan carried his mark.

Strangely, though, just eighteen months after RIOC’s board of enablers approved the FHI plan, they blew it away in favor of a much more expensive and contrary plan.

The when and why of that is unknown, but we’ll have more on it later.

But for now, about the ugly benches…

Here’s what Jim Bates didn’t like…

Not only are the park’s current benches uncomfortable for many, absent arms or rails, they are difficult for others needing aid while sitting or rising. Jim Bates wanted that changed.

Instead, we got…

“Ugly benches” may not be an adequate description.

By what twisted judgment does anyone think paying for inadequate crap like this is an improvement?

When I was a kid in woodshop class, Mr. DiSapio taught us how to make domestic objects out of wood. As a teenager, I sawed, sanded, polished and wired a table lamp inspired by a water pump.

Although my dad kept it in service for the rest of his life, I could always see where my clumsy figures failed at matching the art of the idea.

But one thing I know now, my woodwork was better than what’s being forced on us in Southpoint.

And one more thing pisses me off. My dad was physically disabled by polio and lived most of his life before the idea of barrier free designs emerged.

My dad could not use the junk being bolted down in Southpoint.

And I can imagine my casual friend Jim Bates rolling his eyes.

A long bench might as well have a sign: Disabled Keep Out

But here’s the worst of it — they ain’t done yet, and the rest of the park is shaping up as ugly as these benches.

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