Relief is en route.
The city will spend $900,000 to refurbish a comfort station at a Gravesend playground that has been non-operational for more than 20 years, officials announced last week.
The announcement marks the end of the Parks Department’s years-long effort to find funding to reopen the Marlboro Playground toilet house, according to the agency’s borough commissioner, who added that the renovations will allow youngsters and their parents to spend more time enjoying their playtime and less time worrying about finding a lavatory.
“Our Commissioner [Mitchell Silver] says it’s our business to make sure you can do your business,” Marty Maher told members of Community Board 13 at its March 27 board meeting. “We’ve been waiting for a long time to get this done.”
Board members voted 27-3 at the meeting to signal their support for the measure after the city Public Design Commission requested the board take an advisory vote on the plan to update the structure at the playground at West 11th Street and Avenue W.
The comfort station has been closed for the past quarter-century due to a lack of water, gas, sewer, and electric services inside the structure, according to Maher, who added that those utilities lie outside the playground and that the agency did not secure funding until recently to pay for the underground construction required to restore those services to the building.
Parks Department spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson added that Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $650,000 to pay for the project, and Borough President Eric Adams chipped in $250,000.
The renovations will include a pair of new toilets inside the comfort station, along with new doors, windows, interior tiling, toilet partitions, sinks, hand driers, baby changing tables, and lighting and heating systems, according to Ferguson. Honchos hope construction will begin by next spring, and that the structure will open for use next summer.
But even though the majority of board members voted in favor of the plan, one local charged that it was far too costly for only two new toilets, which he said were not enough to serve the thousands of residents of the nearby Marlboro Houses who frequent the playground.
“You’re only putting in two toilets, basically, for a million bucks,” board member Jeff Sanoff said to Maher at the meeting.
But the price tag on the public toilet house is lower than the citywide average: an investigation by The City found that the Parks Department spends an average of more than $3 million on each public bathroom it builds in city parks — a cost Silver blamed on market forces beyond the department’s control.
Maher told Sanoff that the building’s 400-square-foot size, coupled with the accessibility guidelines outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, meant that there is not room for more than one toilet per gender, adding that the agency also lacked the funding required to add more toilets.
“Because of the codes and requirements, there will wind up being one toilet in each [gendered bathroom] — there’s nothing anybody here can do about that, that’s the amount we can fit. We always try to do the maximum,” he said. “We would love to say we’ll put in three or four [toilets], but there’s not room in the building for that, and there’s not the budget for that.”
Ferguson did not respond to an inquiry about how much each toilet cost to procure and install.
And when Sanoff asked if officials could at least add a porta-potty to the playground so locals could relieve themselves in the meantime, Maher said the department also lacked the cash for that.
“No, there hasn’t been a porta-potty for the past 40 years — I don’t have money in the budget for that kind of thing,” Maher said.
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