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Loo or Lucy: Civic leaders demand gender non-conforming signage for Downtown restroom revamp

Open to all: The city’s fortchcoming renovation of a comfort station in Cadman Plaza Park must include either a gender-neutral restroom or signage allowing people to use the facility of their identified gender, locals from the Community Board 2 parks and recreation committee demanded.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

They have a can-do attitude.

The city must renovate Cadman Plaza Park restrooms to make them accessible for gender non-conforming people, civic gurus demanded at Monday’s executive meeting.

The Department of Parks and Recreation have to redesign the Downtown comfort station at Cadman Plaza E. to either reserve one of the men’s bathrooms as a gender-neutral facility or add signage to note that people can use the facility of the gender they identify with, according to one leader of Community Board 2’s parks and recreation committee.

“You could take away one of the stalls from the men and give it to the gender-free room,” Vice Chairman Andrew Lastowecky said at the board’s March 25 executive meeting. “This could be the time to do it.”

The city agency presented its $1.5 million plan to renovate the bathroom facility near Tillary Street to the committee on March 18 — in order to get its members’ approval of the exterior design, which it needs to submit the plans to the Public Design Commission — the city body that reviews alterations of public architecture.

The exterior of the comfort station will remain largely unchanged but the department will add sloping asphalt paving outside the building to make it wheelchair-accessible.

The department gutted the interior, which is divided into a men’s and women’s section, and will update the existing aging finishes with new floor and wall tiles, plumbing, and electrical systems.

The committee unanimously approved the outside blueprint, but asked the agency reps to consider adding gender non-conforming signage, which the civic group’s chairwoman said the department seemingly hadn’t taken into account.

“In 2019 we should be talking about signage, which we didn’t see any about,” said Barbara Zahler-Gringer. “It appeared that they had not considered this idea of adding signage, I was not the only person that expressed that concern,” said Zahler-Gringer.

The department will finalize its design by the summer and officials are looking into whether to include the signage, according to a spokeswoman.

“We are currently finalizing the design for this comfort station and reviewing the best course of action for gender signage here,” said Maeri Ferguson.

The agency will start construction in the spring of 2020 with its completion set for summer 2021.

All city facilities that are divided by sex or gender – such as bathrooms, locker rooms, pools, or saunas – must allow people to use whichever space that matches the gender they identify with, according to a 2016 executive order by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Hizzoner’s directive also states that all city agencies shall post this policy in “conspicuous locations” for their staff and members of the public to see.

The Parks Department has had a policy of allowing people to use facilities matching their gender identities since before de Blasio’s order, according to Ferguson, who said that agency officials have already posted such signage at recreation centers and comfort stations around the five boroughs, and that park dwellers will be able to use the facility that they identify with.

“With or without signage, in accordance with NYC law, all park-goers are welcome to use the Parks facilities that match their self-identification,” she said.

But parks committee member Lastowecky wasn’t satisfied that the agency didn’t commit to adding the signs.

“Whatever century we’re in right now, the rest of the world is doing gender-free restrooms and the Parks Department is like ‘well, we’ll look at it,’” he said.

The mayor’s office did not respond to request for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

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