Brighton Beach comfort station would be 2 stories tall
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Take your comfort station and flush it down the toilet!
That’s the message US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries has for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation about the agency’s controversial construction of a two-story comfort station on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach.
Jeffries (D-Brooklyn-Queens) is calling on the city’s Dept. of Parks to abandon its plans to build the comfort station adjacent to the Riegelman Boardwalk and pick another location instead. Jeffries also said the agency should consult with local residents on the project before any decisions are made.
Construction began in March but has been temporarily halted by a court order.
Jeffries, whose congressional district includes Brighton Beach, held a press conference at the comfort station site on Monday to publicly call on the City Parks Commissioner Veronica White to step in and halt the project forever. He was joined at the press conference by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay-Brighton Beach) and local residents.
Jeffries has also written a letter to White requesting that she stop the project.
The construction of the comfort station is raising the ire of Brighton Beach residents because of its height –20 feet – and because of its potential to become a magnet to unsavory characters.
“We’re asking the Parks Department to halt plans to resume construction,” Jeffries told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Tuesday.
The comfort station site is located adjacent to the boardwalk at Oceana Drive West, in front of the luxury Oceana Condominium complex. Condo owners at Oceana charged that the two-story comfort station will ruin their view of the water.
“I paid so much money for an ocean view apartment,” resident Alexandra Tsepenuk told the New York Daily News. “And to have that massive structure right in front of my window is ridiculous."
Sheepshead Bites reported that Oceana condo owners are also worried that the two-level comfort station would become a hangout for drug dealers.
“It could attract folks who don’t have the best interests of the community in mind,” Jeffries said.
There is also a concern that the bathrooms would create a stench, Sheepshead Bites reported.
But Jeffries insisted that the main concern residents have is for their safety.
“The placement of this comfort station in such close proximity to a residential building is unsafe. In the event of a major storm, pieces of the structure could break off and become projectiles, placing residents in great danger,” the congressman told the Eagle.
“Safety is the most important concern of the people I represent,” Jeffries said.
The comfort station was planned without input from the community, Jeffries charged.
There was a one-story comfort station at the same location for many years, but it was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The city is building a new comfort station in the same location.
Under a directive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a new structure would have to be elevated to prevent flood waters from damaging it – hence the two-story comfort station.
Jeffries said he still thinks it should not be built there. “We recognize that FEMA requires that the structure be built in a certain way. But there is no requirement that it has to be built in the exact same location,” he said.
“The residents of Brighton Beach should be involved in deciding the most appropriate location for the two-story comfort station to be built adjacent to the boardwalk. This unwieldy structure will dramatically hurt the neighborhood's quality of life and should not be imposed on the community without meaningful resident participation,” Jeffries said.
Cymbrowitz is so angered by the city’s actions over the comfort station that he pulled a bill he had previously supported that would have transferred 250 feet of land south of the boardwalk to the Parks Department’s jurisdiction to facilitate the establishment of a bike lane.
In May, Cymbrowitz informed Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he pulled the legislation in light of the administration’s “serious and continued mishandling” of the new comfort station.
“I believe that giving the city any additional authority of the area near the boardwalk is a mistake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation should continue to have oversight and this legislation will not move forward this session,” Cymbrowitz wrote in a letter to the mayor.
Cymbrowitz appealed to the Parks Department to build the new elevated comfort station further west on the boardwalk to avoid placing it directly in front of the windows of Oceana condominium residents and to situate the facility in a location where they would be used by the greatest number of beach-goers.
On June 5, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation served the Parks Department with a violation notice for unauthorized excavation, placement of gravel and installation of wooden piles. On August 16, a State Supreme Court ruled that the city did not complete a required environmental review and halted construction pending a final decision from the court or publication of an Environmental Impact Statement (IES).
Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Parks, emailed a statement to the Eagle on the controversy.
"Last night Parks hosted a meeting to hear comments from the public regarding the proposed scope of work for a Targeted Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed New Brighton Comfort Station. Following the close of the comment period on Monday, December 2, 2013, we will consider the input we have received and issue a final scope of work, which will guide the preparation of the draft EIS," the state read.
***Article was updated to include the comment from the Dept. of Parks.***