Today’s news:

Keane Square Park benches gone

Bronx Times

Now you see them, now you don’t.

Folks are wondering what happened to the benches in the small problem-plagued park in a Pelham Bay shopping district.

The benches disappeared from Keane Square Park about a month ago, according to Community Board 10 chairman John Marano.

Local merchants have long complained of the benches winding up as beds for homeless and people with substance abuse problems.

At one point in 2009, the Parks Department turned the inner facing benches outward to help defeat the problem, but it still continued to exist.

Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns did clear up of some of the vanishing bench mystery.

He said that he heard from Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office that the benches had been removed by the city parks department for maintenance.

A parks department spokesman confirmed that the benches had been removed and were coming back, but could not provide a time frame.

But a former president of the Pelham Bay Merchants Association said that he would be quite happy not to see the benches return.

“In the summer, it is good for the seniors, they sit there and it’s nice,” said Michael DiFigola, owner of Vito’s Men’s Wear at 1825 Hobart Avenue, diagonally across from Keane Square. “But in the fall, winter and late at night, you get a lot of undesirables.”

That includes a number of people congregating there who appear to have substance abuse problems, he added. The problem is worse in the summer than the winter, he said.

“If they could take the benches out at night, and leave them there during the day, it would be great,” said DiFigola.

He added: “I hate to say that I like the idea of the benches being gone. It is unfortunate, but I think it is better off without the benches than with them.”

Joseph Wall, a Pelham Bay resident who lives near Keane Square Park, said that the benches will be missed by seniors, who enjoy sitting on them when it is temperate.

“There was no warning...that they were going to be take away,” said Wall. “I know a lot of elderly people who would like to go there and sit in the summertime.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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