When City Council members joined officials from the city Parks Department in Queensbridge Park Thursday, where they touted this year’s budget windfall that includes the largest expense investment in city parks in nearly three decades, they heard complaints about the park’s bathrooms.
“For too long, parks have been seriously underfunded and the New Yorkers who depend on them have had to suffer the consequences,” Speaker Corey Johnson said. “Queensbridge Park users have told us that … sometimes the bathrooms aren’t stocked in the way that they need to be stocked. Or sometimes they’re completely closed.”
At about the same time, Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that showed the problems at NYC Parks bathrooms are far worse than how they are stocked, or whether they are even open to the public; some are in such foul condition they represent a public safety risk.
Stringer’s investigation found that of the city’s 1,428 park bathrooms, 100 were deemed to be unacceptable due to a failure to maintain basic cleanliness.
“Our parks are essential public spaces, offering children, seniors and all New Yorkers a safe and secure place to relax and enjoy the outdoors,” Stringer said. “But the city’s investment and maintenance of our bathroom parks is woefully inadequate. Our bathrooms should be comfortable, but our report reveals many of them just stink.”
The investigation revealed “unacceptable” conditions at more than 100 park bathrooms and 53 of them had hazardous conditions due to exposed wiring and insufficient lighting.
In Queens, the highest concentration of foul bathrooms were found at parks in Woodside and Sunnyside, where 25 percent were rated unacceptable.
Jackson Heights and North Corona were found to have the least number of bathrooms in parks and those neighborhoods and Howard Beach and Ozone Park have fewer than eight NYC Parks bathrooms per 100,000 residents.
“Every neighborhood, including low- to moderate-income areas, deserves quality public spaces. NYC Parks must expand the number of these bathrooms in neighborhoods in need and provide resources to bring existing facilities to an acceptable standard. Here’s the bottom line: We all have to go. It’s the city’s responsibility to make sure there is a safe, clean place to do so in our parks.”
Stringer’s study also found that more than 1,000 Parks bathrooms do not have changing stations.
NYC Parks dismissed Stringer’s audit claiming they don’t even have 1,000 bathrooms in city parks. The agency has only 690 bathrooms and Jackson Heights and North Corona have few park bathrooms because they have the second lowest amount of park space in the entire city.
“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,” a Parks spokeswoman said. “Since 2015, we have worked to standardize their design and each facility includes changing tables, in the men’s and women’s restrooms. Through our robust PIP inspection program, and park management and staff oversight, we closely monitor the conditions of each of our 690 comfort stations. Our reporting shows that they are open on average 94 percent of the time during the season.”