April 18, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
As the city comes closer to opening Phase II of Hunters Point South Park, many are concerned for what could potentially become a messy situation at the expanded site.
The lack of additional public restrooms going up with the new 5.5 acre site’s opening, to be exact, has left many in the community wondering what will happen at the popular, sprawling park this summer, especially when more visitors begin to pour in to the 11-acre stretch.
The warm weather last Saturday gave Brent O’Leary, President of the Hunters Point Civic Association, a preview of what’s to come.
“Last weekend was more like Grand Central Station than a park,” O’Leary said.
The existing restrooms at LIC Landing, where the women’s room has three stalls and the men’s room has a urinal and two stalls, were packed to capacity as more park-goers waited in long lines to use them.
“The city has to understand this is not just a neighborhood park,” O’Leary said. “It’s becoming one of the most used parks in the city.”
But concerns about public restrooms at the park’s second phase are not new, and date back two to three years ago, when the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the park’s designers first began presenting their plan for the second half of the park to the community.
At a 2015 Hunters Point Parks Conservancy meeting, for example, many basked in the new park’s amenities and design, but said the existing bathrooms at Phase I would not be sufficient to serve everyone. The EDC said at the time that they would work to address the issue with the Parks Department.
Since then, the agency has opened the two southernmost plots of land by the waterfront—parcels F and G—for developers to build, requiring them to provide a public restroom in order to be considered.
An EDC spokesperson said the selected developers, announced in November, will build a public restroom on Parcel G, which is adjacent to Phase II of the park.
But a timeline for the parcel’s development is still hazy. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the agency that dictates the parcel’s construction, said it’s too early in the predevelopment process to give a construction timeline.
Rob Basch, President of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, anticipates waiting two to three years for the restrooms at the parcel to open. “For the next couple of years it’s an issue,” he said.
Basch said conversations with the city on the issue have pointed to the difficulties in providing public restrooms not just at the park, but elsewhere in the city.
“Bathrooms are difficult for a lot of reasons—security, maintenance, costs,” Basch said. “There’s money and politics.”
Basch and his group have brought up the idea of portable toilets on Center Boulevard, but the same issues of funding and maintenance remain.
O’Leary also told the city that a lack of additional restrooms at the park will be an issue. “I think it’s going to be a problem this summer, and it’s just going to get worse as more people move into the neighborhood.”
He also suggests a temporary solution as park-goers wait for the restrooms at parcel G to come about.
Some park-goers told the LIC Post that restrooms aren’t an issue, given how close their homes are in case of an emergency, and the fact that public restrooms are hard to come by overall in the city.
Others residents, however say the lack of additional restrooms will especially impact women and children, who often bear the brunt of long lines and too few stalls.
Lynn Rabinovici Park, a Hunters Point resident for about four years, was shocked to learn that more restrooms wouldn’t be available once the second half of the park opens.
“There needs to be far more restrooms, definitely,” she told the LIC Post as she played with her children at the Oval. She added that the restrooms often lack toilet paper, and need more baby changing stalls. “That whole thing [the maintenance facility behind the bathrooms] should be restrooms.”
Kadie Black, a Hunters Point resident and board chair of the Gantry Parent Association, said the city leaving out additional restrooms for the new park’s opening is a lapse in judgement.
“I think the fact that they left out the bathroom is an oversight,” she said. “In the interim, there needs to be a short term solution available to everybody, but especially families, to assure that young children have a clean bathroom to use when they need to go.”
Black added: “If you’re going to build something, you want to build it right from the beginning. Why would you expand the park without ensuring basic amenities like a bathroom are in place?”