CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
City officials, police and spectators watched yesterday as trellises and roof structures were removed from three bench and table areas along Nuuanu Stream that had become magnets for criminal activity and public nuisances.
Chinatown structures harbored crime, residents say
Demolition a step to lowering crime
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Area business owners and residents hope the removal of a structure fronting Royal Kitchen on Sun Yat-sen Mall will deter illegal activity that has occurred in the area for more than 20 years.
The site is one of three the city is targeting for removal of roofs and trellised structures along Nuuanu Stream between Vineyard Boulevard and Beretania Street.
With more people moving into the downtown area with new condominium buildings, Dolores Mollring, member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, said, "We want to see it revitalized and make it safe for families."
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Equipped with heavy machinery, blowtorches and chain saws, city workers removed a wooden roof and trellised structure yesterday that business owners and residents say sheltered gambling, drug dealing and prostitution in Chinatown.
"This is one step in removing the bad element there," said Dolores Mollring, a member of a citizens patrol.
"It's brighter now," said Liana Benn, manager of Royal Kitchen, a 34-year family-owned eatery known for its baked manapua. "It looks a lot cleaner."
The restaurant fronts the area where Benn and Mollring said illegal activity has occurred for years.
Benn and other area business owners and residents hope the removal will deter illegal activity at Sun Yat-sen Mall so residents and visitors can enjoy the promenade.
"It's just a bad scene. We want to keep it clean. We want to keep it family-friendly. That's what we want to do," Benn said.
Area residents, businesses owners and passers-by watched crew members yesterday remove the wooden trellises that provided shelter over benches and tables. The site is one of three places along Nuuanu Stream between Vineyard Boulevard and Beretania Street targeted for removal of roofs and trellised structures. The other areas are along the College Walk side of the stream and will be torn down in the next week.
The sites are within the Kalihi/Palama/Chinatown Weed and Seed District. Work is being done by more than a dozen workers from the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Area business owners, Chinese organizations and Downtown Neighborhood Board members notified the city that the illegal activity in the area had worsened.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / STAR-BULLETIN
Workers removed trellises and roof structures from bench and table areas along Nuuanu Stream yesterday in an effort to dissuade criminal activity and public nuisances.
"It just got to a point where it's not tolerable anymore," said Benn, who worked with Lt. Benjamin Mahi of the Honolulu Police Department's Narcotics-Vice Division and the Downtown Neighborhood Board to address the problem. Trash littered on the grounds and unsanitary conditions along the concrete wall where many defecate and urinate have also been a concern.
Before recent raids that calmed illegal activity in the area, Benn said she would call 911 about four times a week due to fights or threats in front of her eatery.
She and other area business owners also described how the benches and tables are full of gamblers and drug dealers from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. "They're playing big-time cards. As much as 10K could come down in a day," Benn said.
"When our visitors come, there's no place for them to sit down and enjoy the area. It's supposed to be a nice promenade," she added.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the removal of the roofs and trellises will make it easier for police to monitor the area.
Law enforcement officials, who also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to address crime in the area, said the removal of the structures is part of a strategic plan called "crime prevention through environmental design." In the mid-1990s a structure was removed from picnic benches near Legend Seafood Restaurant on Sun Yat-sen Mall due to termite rot. Since then, illegal activity dropped at the site, but it remained in the area fronting Royal Kitchen.
"Our hope and our vision is to one day bring the families back to Chinatown where they can relax here," Mahi said.