NJT denies waging war on the indigent, but the railroad has replaced benches outside its Newark Penn Station entrance with unappetizing concrete blocks. NJT officials deny any discrimination in the $435,000 “improvement” project, which added greenery, “pedestrian upgrades”, flower beds, and improved lighting—but replaced comfortable benches seating 12 with plain concrete blocks, which seat 36—if anyone chooses to use them.
According to Mike Frassinelli’s article in the Sept. 26 Star-Ledger, NJT made the switch to improve overall aesthetics and reduce maintenance costs; the old benches had to be power-washed often and were subject to decay from salt used in winter. Cynics began to wonder if concrete-block seating might be coming to trains nex,; and wondered if NJT had considered that they might be subject to legal action by those forced to sit on the concrete. One homeless person said that he had more to worry about than the quality of the seats and that NJT police don’t bother him, but Rheem Conley, waiting (and standing) at the station said, “You can catch hemorrhoids on that (concrete block)!”