Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz wants the city to admit defeat on their plans to erect public bathrooms in front of the Oceana luxury condominiums (50 Oceana Drive West) and just forgo the plans completely. Cymbrowitz’s announcement comes on the heels of reports that similarly installed stations on Far Rockaway have already begun rusting and leaking.
The controversial bathroom project, which also include lifeguard shacks and maintenance structures, was approved in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and put up quickly to be ready for the summer beach season. The construction and installation of the 35 units, spread out over Staten Island, Rockaway Beach, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, cost an estimated $105 million. The structures were built by Triton Construction and designed by Garrison Architects with the intention of meeting all of the latest FEMA specifications and guidelines. According to DNAinfo, the units installed along Rockaway Beach have already started to deteriorate:
But while the shacks were intended to be strong enough to withstand the next superstorm, those who have used them say they are already falling apart — including at least one structure that has duct tape securing its railings for the handicapped-accessible ramp.
“I look at it now and I say, ‘Is this going to last the winter?’” said one lifeguard assigned to Far Rockaway, who asked not to be identified. “There’s leaks right next to the equipment closet. They left it half-done and now there’s problems. The job was done like people didn’t care. It’s a monstrosity. It’s a debacle.”
Photos shared with DNAinfo show the units — some of which are public bathrooms and others that are lifeguard stations — lined with rust and beginning to show wall cracks before the summer has even finished.
“The insides are starting to rust and they leak all over the place,” said another lifeguard who works out of a shack on Rockaway Beach.
While the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) did admit to using some temporary materials in the construction of the lifeguard stations and bathrooms, they defended against the notion that the buildings were beginning to rust:
On Friday afternoon, the DDC sent DNAinfo New York a video showing a department employee scrubbing a portion of a unit with a Clorox wipe and a sponge. They said the cleaning shows it’s “not rust, just dirt — which likely adhered to adhesive left behind from when the pieces were wrapped in plastic for delivery,” a spokesman said.
In our area, complaints over the new units were most vocal from tenants living in the Oceana condominium complex. Original reports had them most concerned over the idea that the bathrooms would wreck their views of the ocean and attract homeless people and teenagers looking to cause trouble. Fearing that their initial complaints were not being taken seriously, Oceana residents used their political heft to get politicians like Cymbrowitz and Senator Charles Schumer involved, and the opposition evolved to include concerns about cost overruns and safety issues.
The bathrooms scheduled to be built in front of the Oceana still remain parked at the end of the boardwalk because workers hit bedrock in their effort to lay the foundation, forcing a delay in construction. As the summer season is fast ending, Cymbrowitz is calling for the city to just give up in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“It is evident that the tens of thousands of people who visited our beautiful beach this season managed to survive just fine without having a comfort station in front of the Oceana. That said, it’s high time for the city to pack up its pail and shovel (along with the cement piles still sitting near the Oceana), clean up the mess it made on our beach, and go home,” Cymbrowitz wrote.
Cymbrowitz asked the city to involve the city residents in any future plans regarding the boardwalk.
“The only fair solution to this protracted boondoggle is for the city to start from square one, keep an ear firmly tuned to the community’s wishes and build the comfort stations further west on the Boardwalk,” Cymbrowitz said.
Despite the calls of Cymbrowitz and others, the Parks Department is still planning to install the last of the units in the fall. The DDC also told DNAinfo that they are committed to keeping the units spiffy after Labor Day.
“We will also be performing some cosmetic work, including refinishing portions of the stainless steel surfaces on the modular units,” a DDC spokesman said.