Brighton Boardwalk Bathrooms To Move To Coney Island Avenue In Victory For Oceana Residents, Local Pols

Brighton Boardwalk Bathrooms To Move To Coney Island Avenue In Victory For Oceana Residents, Local Pols
The "preferred" alternative proposed by NYC Parks for the comfort stations.  The original site is in blue. (Source: NYC Parks)
The “preferred” alternative proposed by NYC Parks for the comfort stations. The original site is in blue. (Source: NYC Parks)

EXCLUSIVE: After a two-year battle, the New York City Parks Department has agreed that the best site for a contentious set of boardwalk bathrooms previously destroyed by Superstorm Sandy is at the Coney Island Avenue entrance, across from a Jewish community center – and not in front of a posh condominium development.

The agency unveiled a new set of plans on its website tonight that now places the comfort stations – twin elevated structures that look not unlike RVs on stilts –  approximately 250 feet west of where they were previously planned, and much closer to the Shorefront YM-YWHA. The bathrooms will still be elevated off the beach, but only by eight feet, making them on the same level as the boardwalk.

“It’s the best location because it’s the busiest area, it’s the widest area … it shouldn’t be right in front of the residential buildings, in people’s livings room,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who opposed the previous location.

After Superstorm Sandy destroyed nearly all of the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s comfort stations in 2012, the city began constructing the elevated bathrooms in their footprints the following year, using federal funds. All of the other damaged bathrooms have been replaced with the elevated structures, but residents of the Oceana condominium development lashed out at the resilient design – which they said would block views and potentially turn into projectiles during a massive storm – as well as about perceived quality of life issues.

Construction snafus slowed the installation of the bathrooms, and a lawsuit filed by residents forced the city into producing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and brought it to a halt. Elected officials, including Cymbrowitz and State Senator Diane Savino – began lobbying the department for an alternative.

Roughly a year and a half after the department went back to the drawing board, it’s presenting a plan that it claims makes more sense.

“We’re thinking that this location is more accessible, it serves beachgoers better, it’s in front of an institutional establishment instead of a residential building,” Sam Biederman, the Parks Department’s assistant commissioner for communications, told Sheepshead Bites.

Biederman said the department, which under Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed that the bathrooms would be placed in their original footprint, had the change of heart “as a matter of policy.”

“This is a new administration and we’re trying to be more responsive to the community’s concerns,” said Biederman. “Commissioner Mitchell Silver has been heading up Parks for less than a year and the new administration, as a matter of policy, believes comfort stations should not be sited in front of residential buildings.”

Not all are happy with the agency’s about-face, however. The Shorefront Y – the “institutional establishment” Biederman referred to – blasted the plan when it was presented as an alternative last year.

The Shorefront Y is located at Coney Island Avenue and the boardwalk, with its an outdoor playground for its children facing the proposed facility. Executive Director Sue Fox said last year that placement of the pilings could be disruptive and even threaten their own structural stability, and that the public bathrooms so close to small children could bring unseemly characters.

Biederman said Parks considered Shorefront’s concerns in its final EIS, which notes that construction vibrations will be closely monitored, and that the NYPD actively patrols the area.

But that doesn’t sway Fox, for whom the months of construction can mean more than sleepless nights – it can threaten the viability of a community resource that aids thousands.

“I remain extraordinarily concerned about the potential impact of construction on our building, of the infrastructure on our building. We need to remain operational; I’m worried about sound and it’s a big question mark,” Fox told Sheepshead Bites.

Biederman said that the soonest the comfort station could be constructed is October 2016. There will be temporary bathrooms this summer. The department could not yet provide a cost estimate.

Update (9:46am): The documents revealed that the bathrooms will not be nearly as high as previously planned, and will in fact be the same level as the boardwalk. The second paragraph was amended to reflect this, and the accompanying graphic has been changed.

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