Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Bay Park Toilets Still Waiting Seven Years Later

test4Portable toilets vs. a comfort station 1
State Sen. Tony Avella, third from left, leads a press conference on Tuesday regarding the city’s seven-year delay in building a comfort station in Little Bay Park in Bayside Queens. With him are Phil Konigsberg, left, Carol Gresser, Warren Schreiber, Joe Branzetti and Lu Kernahan. Behind them are three portable toilets in lieu of a permanent restroom, (Photo: Liz Rhoades)


Community leaders are fed up that the comfort station they were promised seven years ago at Little Bay Park has not been built and all they’ve got instead are three graffiti-laden portable toilets, according to the Queens Chronicle.

In 2004, then-City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) allocated $1.3 million to construct the bathrooms in the park which is adjacent to Fort Totten. At the same time, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) secured a $4.12 million federal transportation allocation with $1 million of it going to reconstruct and expand Little Bay’s parking lot and $3.2 million to reconstruct the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street.

None of the improvements have been started and community leaders and elected officials gathered at a press conference in the park Tuesday morning to vent their outrage. Avella said the fact that there’s been no shovel in the ground for any of the projects “is totally unacceptable and typical of the Parks Department” and its work delays.

“It’s unfair to the community,” Avella added, “and unfair to the taxpayers. Costs go up the longer you wait.”

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, noted that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe attended the funding announcement seven years ago, but wonders where he is now. “The $1.3 million was for nothing but three portable rest rooms,” Schreiber said. “Nobody knows where the money is.”

He and Avella have received little information from Parks, which is blaming other city and state agencies for the holdup. The senator said he was told unofficially that the state Department of Transportation and the state Historic Preservation Office, looking into a possible archeological investigation at the site, have slowed things down.

Avella is hoping to introduce a bill that would force city agencies to provide transparency by publicly listing the status of all their projects. “It’s simple legislation and I think the City Council would support it,” he said.

Michael Feiner, president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, said parkgoers deserve a comfort station. He was supported by Joe Branzetti, president of Friends of Fort Totten Parks. “It’s time for the excuses to stop and for the city to get it done,” Branzetti said.

Carol Gresser, Democratic district leader for the area, called the lack of action “an insult to people in the community,” adding, “Show us the money.”

Phil Konigsberg, first vice president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said he used to carry around a sign that applies to the issue: “People will come but where will they go?” Konigsberg believes that having a public restroom is not a luxury and that the number of people coming to Little Bay has increased tremendously over recent years.

Area resident Lu Kernahan said any talk of archeological significance there is a joke. “The parkland is a result of a 1930s landfill project,” Kernahan said.

Ackerman’s aide, Jordan Goldes, attended and later offered the following statement from the congressman: “These were important funds that I fought hard to secure for our community. It’s well past time for these projects to move forward. Hopefully, all agencies involved can cut through the bureaucratic red tape so that shovels can finally get into the ground as soon as possible.”

A Parks Department spokesman said the funding is secure and has not been reallocated: “Because the project contains federal grant funds, the state is obligated to review all plans before Parks can bid or begin to build here.We’ve been working closely and actively with State DOT to address their comments and requests.”

He indicated that the outstanding issues include:

• State approval to build close to a coastal zone, submitted to the Department of State and currently under review.

• State approval of Parks Department plans to handle archaeological finds, if any are discovered on site, because archaeological material was recently found within half a mile of Little Bay. Parks is working with the State Historic Preservation Office.

• Permission from several agencies and others to use an FDNY-owned sewer line. The Fire Department has given approval, but the consultants are still putting together the Department of Environmental Protection application.

No timeline was given, but Avella said that since word had gotten out to city agencies about the press conference, Parks officials and the state DOT have agreed to meet with him to clarify steps that will be taken to complete the projects.

Read More:

Residents tired of waiting seven years for Little Bay Park bathrooms
Queens Chronicle - December 1, 2011 - By Liz Rhoades

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