From the Queens Chronicle:
Residents gained useful skills and a chance to know their neighbors as many teamed up for a small-scale public project to install benches at Jamaica bus stops.
“In this recession, we were upset that the stimulus didn’t go directly to people who needed it most. So, since the government hasn’t brought the WPA back, we will,” said Christopher Robbins, outreach officer with the Work Projects Administration-2010.
On July 1, WPA opened an office at 90-26 161st St. in Jamaica where the group held a series of workshops to find out what kinds of projects were desired and needed. One idea that consistently came up was the installation of benches at area bus stops.
WPA gave seven residents, who would have otherwise been unemployed, $12 an hour to build two benches. One was installed on Parsons Boulevard near 88th Avenue and the other will serve as a back-up for the first. If it is determined that the second bench is not needed it will be placed at another location.
“After an hour of watching and filming it, people came over and sat down and said ‘This is great,’” recalled Robbins. “But they felt we needed a way to permanently affix it or else it would get stolen. We wanted to play the trust game, but people kept saying it would disappear.”
The WPA workers have taken the bench away while the group figures out a plan to make it more secure. It is considering bolting the bench to the concrete, but will consult the city’s Department of Transportation, to find out if that is the best method before moving forward.
However, involving the DOT may turn out to work against the WPA, since the group does not have permission to put the benches on city property.
“It is a renegade project in the sense that we are doing what we wish the government would do,” said Robbins “It gives average citizens a way to improve their neighborhood.”
Even if the city takes the bench away or it gets stolen, the project is not a total bust because it is what the bench symbolizes at least as much as its physical presence that is important.
It was an opportunity for community members to come together and make some money while learning skills that they would not have otherwise had, all while producing a product that benefits their neighborhood.