LOWER EAST SIDE — Community members have launched a series of workshops aimed at convincing the city to turn a run-down storage facility into a community center with much-needed public restrooms — a cause advocates have been pushing for since 1994.
The Stanton Building Task Force, an offshoot of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition, on Wednesday gathered outside the Parks Department building on Stanton Street to pass out surveys to park-goers in order to gather feedback on how best to revitalize the space, which the department has been using as a storage facility since the 1980s despite pressure from advocates to transform it for community use.
The feedback-gathering session — which overlapped with the Parks Department’s annual “It’s My Park Day,” where volunteers gather to rake leaves, plant greenery, and otherwise beautify their local park — is the first of three events aimed at drumming up community support for reinvigorating the space, said Kay Webster, president of the coalition.
“Today is really to try and get a broad public ‘What do you want to see here’ — to really ask the neighborhood and park-goers, ‘What do you want here,’” Webster said.
“I know what they’re going to say: bathrooms, because I’ve already been asked 10 times today if there’s a bathroom nearby.”
The Parks Department is currently working on converting the building’s staff bathroom into a public one after decades of activism from the park coalition, who've cited a severe lack of facilities in the park that has often left gardeners, athletes, and the area’s homeless without access to restrooms — though Webster feels the department is dragging its feet on the project.
But the department has shown no interest in moving forward with the community’s demand to reactivate the rest of the building as a youth center — a demand supported by Community Board 3 — claiming it needs the facility for storage.
Webster said she continues to suggest alternate spaces for storage — most recently, a space underneath the Williamsburg Bridge — but the department says it is not in talks to move the storage.
The second workshop, which will take place on July 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the BRC Senior Services Center at 30 Delancey St., will be aimed at gathering a group of locals willing to actively campaign to reactivate the building.
The third and final workshop will be hosted by activist group NYCommons, which will help educate local park advocates on how best to influence policy surrounding their public spaces. The workshop, also held at the senior center, will take place on July 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Webster said she hopes the results of the workshop will demonstrate to the Parks Department that community members care deeply about the park space and want very much to see its facilities open to the community.
“I don’t know why Parks is being so stubborn about it,” she said.
A Parks Department spokeswoman said they are working to bring a public restroom facility to the building, and declined to comment on the demands for a community facility.