BY KATHERINE NERI
Councilman I. Daneek Miller, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and other community leaders openly criticized the delayed renovation of the comfort station at Daniel M. O’Connell Playground in Springfield Gardens that started three years ago — and is still not finished.
The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation is under public scrutiny for its poor and prolonged management of the project. Due to how dragged out the process has been, residents and parkgoers have had to use portable bathrooms instead of a functional restroom for the entirety of three years.
Miller, Stringer, and the other community leaders demanded on Aug. 3 that the agency own up to their mistakes.
The suspended project also proved to be an inconvenience for participants of the annual Jump & Ball kids’ basketball tournament, which is sponsored by famed rapper, actor and southeast Queens native, LL Cool J. Since 2004, the event has been hosted at the O’Connell Playground and has had to specifically get more portable toilets for the event’s five-week competition for the past three years now.
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman said, “Children and families should be able to enjoy their local park without worrying about access to a clean restroom.”
Then-Councilman Leroy Comrie and the city’s Office of Management and Budget had allocated a total of $1.12 million, according to NYC Parks’ Capital Project Tracker, to NYC Parks for a restroom reconstruction that would include ADA-compliant bathrooms, energy-efficient lighting and a slate roof, which was expected to break ground in August 2015 and be finished within one year.
After more than $400,000 of the original contract had been spent, Miller was told that the contractor was removed from the project.
In 2017 it was released that the estimate for the cost of reconstruction of a comfort station had gone all the way up to $1.7 million. Complete new construction would total nearly $3 million.
Miller said, “Although the process of completing work on a city capital project is complicated, at some point there has to be accountability, and the Parks Department has failed in that regard.”
Stringer released an audit report, in June 2018, on 69 capital projects managed by NYC Parks that exposed construction delays — of up to three years for some of them — which had gone $5 million over budget because of the employment of private consultants who were hired to oversee the prime contractors.
The project at O’Connell is expected to extend into August 2019.