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Pricey Rockaway Bathrooms Get 24-Hour Security

By Katie Honan | December 12, 2013 6:34am
 The Parks Department said the cost of the bathrooms security is included in the contract.
Pricey Bathrooms Guarded Day and Night By Security
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ROCKAWAY BEACH — They must be flush with cash.

Four multimillion-dollar bathrooms awaiting installation along Rockaway Beach and Brighton Beach have had round-the-clock security guarding them since they were delivered in the summer, angering local residents who say the bathrooms are a waste and the city's priorities are wrong.

The high-priced structures, which were among 35 bathrooms and lifeguard stations provided after Hurricane Sandy by the Department of Design and Construction, have been under watch since they were delivered by barge in July. The city has only given a vague timeline for when these four bathrooms would be put in place.

The 35 shacks drew fire because they were brought in before this year's beach season without community input, and many of them were already falling apart months after they were installed. They were also put in ahead of measures that would protect the seaside communities from future storms, such as restoring the boardwalk.

The Parks Department announced the Rockaway Beach shacks would be installed on Beach 67th Street, a decision some residents had initially tried to fight. As a result of the opposition, they have been languishing on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 104th Street in Queens.

The Brooklyn shacks are at Brighton 15th Street and the boardwalk.

The effort to move the Brighton Beach stations was reportedly stalled after residents next to the proposed location filed a lawsuit, delaying the process until the city provides an environmental impact statement.

The bathrooms awaiting a home were covered in white plastic sheets in the fall, and will be installed on the beach sometime in the winter — although the Parks Department couldn't give a more specific date.

In addition to the guards, the bathrooms sit behind a locked chain-link fence.

Security guards at both sites, parked in private cars, have been stationed day and night since the bathrooms arrived.

One guard in Rockaway Beach, who declined to give his name, told DNAinfo New York on a recent weekday morning that he was supposed to sit in his car outside the gated fence to ensure nothing happened to the structures.

When asked about the security, a spokesman for the DDC referred a request for comment to a Parks Department spokesman, who said “security and contingencies are both included in the contract.”

“Further cost breakdowns could be made available after installation is completed,” he added.

According to the $105 million contract for the shacks, security for each of 15 locations where they would be placed in Rockaway, on Staten Island and in Brooklyn would cost $238,000.

It was not clear if that figure includes the contingency cost for the bathrooms that have not yet been installed. The timetable for the expenditure was also not clear.

DNAinfo submitted a Freedom of Information Law request on Oct. 7 for an updated cost of the security, but the DDC responded only with a copy of the initial contract.

This summer, DNAinfo reported that the pricey shacks had temporary windows that leaked, railings held together with duct tape and a rust-like coating on the outside of the stainless steel that the DDC said was dirt.

Since the end of the beach season, crews have continued to work on the structures, installing permanent doors and windows and scrubbing the outside.

Meanwhile, neighbors in Rockaway Beach were outraged that guards were in place to watch the uninstalled bathrooms while residents await measures to protect them from future storms, like the rebuilding of the boardwalk, which has been delayed.

"What a waste," said lifelong resident Flip Mullen, 69, whose wife works at the school across the street. "It's the ultimate waste of watching garbage that nobody wants."

The manager of the local community board, Jonathan Gaska, said that while he understood why the city would want to protect the "overpriced tin cans" inside the fence, he didn't think it was needed.

"I think that money could be better spent doing a lot of things, and clearly security is not necessary," he said, adding that the cost was a waste and he didn't think the bathrooms were in danger of any vandals.

"They're falling apart on their own," he said. "They don't need us to help."