Report: Park bathrooms are flush with problems

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | New York City’s park bathrooms stink. That’s the finding of a report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

That is, they’re subpar.

The report, “Discomfort Stations: The Conditions and Availability of NYC Park Bathrooms,” highlights the dire state of the city’s 1,428 park restrooms, which were found to have 400 damaged sinks, toilets, walls, ceilings, changing tables and other features. In addition, the report says, more than 900 of the city’s park restrooms are not A.D.A. accessible. The report is also a reminder of the desperately low number of park restrooms in the city. With just 16 park bathrooms for every 100,000 people, New York City ranks 93rd per capita among the nation’s 100 largest cities.

Manhattan was found to have the highest number of substandard park bathrooms, with 15 percent deemed unacceptable, according to the report. In order for a restroom to be ranked substandard, it must either contain at least three unsatisfactory features — anything from a broken toilet to scratches on a mirror — have one serious safety hazard or have failed a cleanliness rating. Brooklyn came in second, with 12 percent substandard park restrooms, Queens was third, with 7 percent failing the test, the Bronx was fourth, with 5 percent of its park loos considered losers, and Staten Island pulled up the rear, with just  2 percent of its park bathrooms failing to make the grade.

(Image courtesy of Comptroller Stringer’s office)

Manhattan is also home to the district with the highest number of objectionable restrooms, the report found. In Parks District 3, covering the Lower East Side, Chinatown, the East Village, Noho and Two Bridges, 40 percent of park restrooms were deemed unacceptable.

The report states that inspectors further identified 53 “hazards” in city park bathrooms, ranging from exposed wires and damaged or missing safety straps on changing stations to noxious odors and inadequate lighting. Hazardous features were found in 38 bathrooms, in total, including 17 bathrooms in Brooklyn, eight in Manhattan, seven in the Bronx, five in Queens and one in Staten Island.

According to a representative from Stringer’s office, 12 “hazards” were found in the eight Manhattan park restrooms. In a Central Park bathroom, a changing table was found to have a damaged child-safety strap. Exposed wires were found in a bathroom stall of Harlem’s Carmansville Playground. Inspectors found inappropriate storage at Highbridge Park, in Washington Heights. Two instances of inadequate lighting and a broken strap on a changing desk were found in a restroom on Randall’s Island. Inspectors found that a restroom at Union Square had inadequate lighting and a broken child-safety strap on a changing desk. A piece of metal protruding from a bathroom mirror was determined a laceration hazard at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem/Manhattanville. Two instances of damaged child-safety straps on a changing table were found in a restroom on the High Line park, and profanity was found written inside of bathroom at Stanley M. Isaacs Park, at E. 96th St. by the F.D.R. Drive.

The Parks Department has pushed back against the report.

“This administration has invested in the construction and reconstruction of more than 15 percent of our park comfort stations — 27 have been completed, and 76 are active capital projects,” said Crystal Howard, Parks assistant commissioner of communications, in an e-mail to this paper. “Since 2015, we have worked to standardize their design and each facility includes changing tables — in the men’s and women’s restrooms. “

The report concludes by calling on the city to install more changing stations in park bathrooms, upgrade bathrooms, and invest more in maintenance and operations, though without recommending a dollar amount. According to the Parks Department, its current budget for maintenance and operations is around $320 million. This year’s fiscal budget added $44 million to the Parks budget.

One Response to Report: Park bathrooms are flush with problems

  1. And where pray tell may one find a public toilet outside the parks? What establishments let the public in? What publican welcomes strangers? Department stores? Hotels? And repeated attempts by our City to establish public toilets have repeatedly failed. . . More baby nappy changing stations, please. Matrons in all public parks toilet areas, too. [Oh, bathrooms? I'm still looking for a public bathroom with a bathtub, bubble bath, plush towels!]

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