Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Restrooms Still Nowhere to be Found in Queens Park, $1.3M Planned Funds Flushed Away by City Gov't by Denis Hamill - NY Daily News

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Listen closely and you can hear the sound of your tax dollar flushing down a toilet that doesn't even exist yet.
In the scheme of New York's problems, a park without a restroom is a piddling matter. But as I detailed here last week, the failure of city bureaucracy in getting a restroom built in Little Bay Park in Queens five years after funding was secured is emblematic of everything that is wrong with The System.
It is the city of New York in microcosm.
It is a story that explains how after five years we will have a brand-new $500,000 dog run in Little Bay Park opening this month, but no restroom for a human being. No safe and private place for a girl playing soccer to answer nature's call. No hygienic place for a pregnant soccer mom to find relief. No dignified comfort station for a jogger, bicyclist, Little Leaguer, hockey player, picnicker, fisherman, skater, stroller - except for three Port-O-Potties provided by a company from Bridgeport, Conn., which are basically kitty litter boxes for human beings. Yuck!
Okay, this smelly tale all started back on July 12, 2005, when then-local City Councilman Tony Avella held a press conference in idyllic Little Bay Park with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to announce that he had secured $1.3 million to build a restroom in the parking area of this 50-acre emerald.
"I can tell you that the reason we are here today," Avella said that day, "is because the Friends of Fort Totten and the Bay Terrace Community Alliance besieged me, literally besieged me, for the last year and a half to get a comfort station."
Benepe, added, "We have a saying in the Parks Department, 'Our business is to help New Yorkers do their business.'"
Funny. No, make that, pee-in-your-pants funny.
Because, flash-forward FIVE years, and the only place you can do your business in Little Bay Park is a Port-O-Potty.
Unless you're a DOG. Then you can do it in a brand-new $500,000 doggie run.
When I spoke to Avella last week, he pointed his finger at the Parks Department for allowing the $1.3 million he secured to get clogged in the sewer pipes of the bureaucracy.
So I spoke to Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens Commissioner of Parks, to get her explanation.
"When Councilman Avella came up with $1.3million in 2005 we also got some federal funding from Congressman Gary Ackerman through the ICE-T [Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation] Program, to expand the parking lot in Little Bay Park," she says. "So there was a decision to join the two projects, so we'd be in construction at the same time."
Sounded like a good idea at the time.
It wasn't.
Lewandowski says there were two reasons for the loooong delay.
"One, because we were close to the water, there were some permits we had to get from the state DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation]," she says. "Second, the ICE-T funding, federal money comes to us through the state DOT [Department of Transportation]. So moving that whole process forward took a while. Anytime you have a federal grant you need a city match. So Avella's money for the comfort station was used to justify the match for the federal funding for the parking lot."
Uh huh...
Meanwhile, you wouldn't wanna be holding in a PEE waiting for the DEC permits and the ICE-T money to reach the DOT for the parking lot. And then have that money clerked, jerked and busy-worked in Albany before it grinds down through the city combine to the Parks Department, where money is re-routed through Alice's rabbit hole behind a big tree in Little Bay Park where Little Leaguers relieve themselves between innings because there's no bathroom.
"The good news is that the final designs for the restrooms are completed," says Lewandowski, five years later. "We're in the final stages with the DOT and DEC and we expect this project to go out to bid this winter, which means we'll be in construction in the summer of 2011."
Which means we'll celebrate Grand Opening Flush of the first toilet in 2012. Seven years after the 2005 news conference announcing the money was in place for a rest room.
Meanwhile, all we have is a $500,000 dog run and three Port-O-Potties from A Royal Flush in Bridgeport, Conn., which Lewandowski says cost taxpayers $5,000 a year.
Why Bridgeport, Conn.?
"Well that's a contract that's put out to bid and awarded through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
A Royal Flush's main office is in Connecticut but they also have an office in the Bronx."
Now you have a handle on how and why the city is going in the dumper.