Michael Schaffer’s piece on the renewal of the S and T Street triangle parks (“Bench-Clearing Brawl,” 7/4) is informed by a very old trope in American culture: Namely, there is something wrong with the city, even if things go right. That he should characterize the cleanup as a matter of “intolerance” in his last paragraph is really to malign the thoughtful efforts of Iris Molotsky, a local hero if there ever was one. Though Schaffer acknowledges the dramatic beneficial turnaround for the parks, in the American city nothing is ever quite the way it should bein this case, the sinister element is the removal of benches, which are no doubt crucial to one’s enjoyment of watching cars whiz by on three sides.
That the article should somehow problematize such a simple issue is pretty funny. It was the community that decided to renew these parks and decided on the best way to do it. Noting that the resident drunks in the park like to lounge endlessly, the community decided not to encourage that tendency. Does Schaffer recall when the resident drunks somehow brought in a big, heavy, soiled-beige reclining lounge chair? If anyone blames the neighbors for rejecting benches after seeing that, I think they must be nuts. On second thought, maybe they would have precisely the mental habits to be a high-ranking member of the city government if they so wished some day. This is evidenced by the fact that one such high-ranking member of D.C. government said the following when told of the public urination and defecation, and the neighbors’ plans to alleviate the problem: “Instead of trying to get rid of them, we could deal compassionately with the problem by bringing in a porta-potty to the park.”