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Plan Stalls to Put in New Beach Bathrooms in Sandy-Damaged Rockaways

By Katie Honan | July 17, 2013 6:36am
 Two multi-million dollar comfort stations are sitting in an empty lot while the Parks Department figures out their beachside destination.
Rockaway Beach Bathrooms Stalled in Lot
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ROCKAWAY BEACH — A plan to put a pair of the city's new multimillion-dollar bathrooms on Hurricane Sandy-damaged Rockaway Beach may be going down the toilet.

Some residents in the Arverne by the Sea complex in the Beach 60s had raised a stink about the city's plan to place the public bathrooms nearby, but the exact reason for the stalled toilet installation was not immediately clear.

The comfort stations are being kept in an empty lot a block from the beach in Rockaway Beach, as the Parks Department works to find a place to install them, a department spokesman confirmed.

The modular units were delivered by barge on Tuesday, July 9, after arriving from a factory in Pennsylvania, and were brought a few blocks to the lot, which is owned by the Department of Environmental Protection.

“These buildings are being stored at the DEP facility for future installation, location to be announced,” Parks Department spokesman Arthur Pincus said.

The futuristic-looking comfort stations and lifeguard shacks were placed along city beaches after Hurricane Sandy destroyed or severely damaged some existing facilities.

The city installed 35 of the units at 17 locations citywide, with the cost totaling more than $100 million.

About a dozen of the stalls are in the Rockaways on Beach 116th, 106th, 97th, 86th, 73rd and 59th streets.

“We have been working with community leaders, elected officials and other stakeholders to locate these new facilities to replace buildings destroyed by Hurricane Sandy,” Pincus said.

The district manager of the local community board, however, said the Parks Department hasn’t contacted them about the units.

"They were delivered in the middle of the night. They can't confirm where they are going to go, and they haven't contacted the community board," said Jonathan Gaska, of Community Board 14.

The plans for the new bathrooms, which are elevated about 17 feet over the beach, were first revealed in February and presented at a community board meeting in March.

But a precise location for the two bathrooms that are currently sitting in the lot were not mentioned, and their ultimate destination was not clear. A map within a Parks Department document shows that plans for Beach 66th Street remain undecided, offering only a blank page that reads: "Site Plan Pending."

"City Hall is driven by getting things done before they leave office, and unfortunately not a lot of this is being done with community input or in a thoughtful way,” he said. “It's just the zeal of being able to say they got stuff done after Hurricane Sandy.”

Placement of the public bathrooms in the Beach 60s, near the Arverne by the Sea development, was fought by homeowners because there wasn’t a public bathroom there before the storm.

Glenn DiResto, president of the Arverne by the Sea homeowners association, said the Parks Department didn’t seek any community input about where the units should be placed.

“My concern, as head of homeowners association here, was that it wasn't really thought through,” he said.

Dolores Orr, who is chairwoman of the local community board as well as president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, said it will be a “no-win situation” for residents wherever the stations are ultimately placed.

“If the location is a new location, selected without any input from the community board, local civic or elected officials where there was never a bathroom before, that neighborhood will be very angry,” she said.

Installing the units involves street closures and round-the-clock construction.

The Parks Department hasn’t sent out any notice of community disturbance, they said, because “they will not be immediately installed.”