Occupy the toilet! Brighton Beach bathroom battle devolves into class warfare

Occupy the toilet! Brighton Beach bathroom battle devolves into class warfare
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Call it a tale of two toilets.

The city now says it is willing to relocate the embattled Boardwalk bathrooms it planned to put on the beach in front of a ritzy Brighton Beach condo complex — but neighbors say moving the loos is just brown-nosing the rich.

The $6-million public toilets, to be paid for with federal funds, must be mounted atop 20-foot stilts to comply with new federal flood standards, which would block the ocean views of some units of the upscale Oceana Condominiums, causing an uproar among residents.

In an effort to block the bathrooms, residents of the Oceana Homeowner’s Association sued the city last March for not following proper procedures for the project. A judge agreed, and ordered the Parks Department to conduct and environmental impact study before work could proceed.

The city recently finished the study, which concluded that the intended location — the original site of the Sandy-smashed comfort station being replaced — was just fine for the controversial commodes.

But instead of pushing ahead with the original plan, the Parks Department floated an alternative location for the lofty latrines at a March 20 public meeting at the nearby Shorefront Y — namely, directly in front of the Shorefront Y.

Oceana residents applauded the new plan, but other Brighton Beachers accused Parks of pandering to the condo complex’s wealthy residents.

“I feel like the alternative plan is motivated by the very wealthy in the neighborhood,” argued 60-year Brighton Beach resident Larry Fish.

Others claimed that digging and pouring new footings would be the equivalent of flushing tax money down the toilet, at a time when many public greenspaces are still in disarray after 2012’s superstorm.

“There are still parks across Southern Brooklyn still devastated from Hurricane Sandy, and people are being told there is no money for repairs,” said Brighton Beach activist Ida Sanoff. “I would like to know how this is justified!”

Worse, if the new bathrooms aren’t built in the same place as the pre-Sandy loos, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not pick up the tab — so relocating the restrooms could end up being a $6-million sop to the wealthy condo owners.

Leaders at the Shorefront Y said that the construction of the bathrooms outside their building could damage the fragile piping of their popular indoor pool, and draw seedy Boardwalk characters near their playground.

“It would cause irreparable damage to the Shorefront Y,” said Susan Fox, president of the 65-year-old community center.

Even some Oceana tenants were troubled that the new location would hurt those in the wider community who use the Y.

“This proposal is designed to appease a small group of well-to-do Oceana owners, at the expense of the much broader neighborhood,” condo owner Boris Kantor shouted over the boos of his neighbors. “If this proposal is accepted, it will be the most brazen act of discrimination against low-income seniors.”

But other Oceana residents said those who protested moving the toilets from the condos to the community center were acting out of jealousy.

“You want to stick this in my face because I live in a beautiful building called Oceana and you live in a dump!” declared Dmitry Geyber.

The Parks Department said it would make its final decision after taking into account the comments made at the meeting.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Making waves: Oceana resident Dmitry Geyber said neighbors who opposed relocating the loos are just jealous of him.
Photo by Steve Solomonson