CHATHAM — The bus shelter bench on 79th Street is missing, but there’s not a thief on the loose.
It turns out the city is behind the bench’s removal, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said.
The bench was removed from the bus shelter at 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue earlier this month, baffling regular riders.
“One day it was here, the next it was gone,” said one rider using a walker, waiting for the westbound 79th Street bus to take her to her doctor’s appointment. “It’s a mess.”
Recently there have been a rash of robberies near the shelter. Those robberies, along with ongoing loitering on the corner, led to the removal of the bench. The goal was to discourage people from hanging out on the corner, Harris said.
The loitering hasn’t stopped people from bringing their own chairs and selling loose cigarettes, though.
Administrators of the Concerned Citizens of Chatham, a popular neighborhood Facebook page, said there were requests to remove the bus shelter bench, as well as one on 71st Street and Indiana Ave., due to the robberies and other “dangerous activities” at both locations.
The shelter bench at 71st Street remained in place as of Sunday.
Harris and 6th District Police Cmdr. Rahman Muhammad said they believe the removals are a good way to combat loitering. But when asked about how the removal affects elderly riders and passengers with disabilities, Harris said the move removal was only temporary.
“Once we get things under control, it will return,” Harris said. “I and Cmdr. Muhammad will be monitoring the intersection for the next week or so, and going from there.”
Muhammad said he is taking a “three-pronged approach” to tackle the problem.
“Firstly, offering those individuals a warning to leave the area, while at the same time giving them job fliers for employment opportunities,” Muhammad said.
Harris and Muhammad are planning to meet with CTA leadership “in the near future” about the issue and possible solutions.
“There will be weekly updates,” said Harris, who added that she hopes to have a meeting with the owner of the nearby currency exchange to persuade them to hire security.
Harris pointed out that while there are 22 bus shelters in her ward, not all of them have benches, but stressed their importance of keeping CTA riders safe from the elements.
“The idea is to keep the bus shelter where it is. We don’t want to move it. We just want to make it safer.”
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