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Royal flush: Parks department pitches $2.4 million bathrooms for Red Hook

Hot seat: Kevin Quinn, chief of architecture and engineering with the parks department, answers questions about the new design proposals for the Valentino Park bathrooms at a meeting on Oct. 9.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The city’s budget of $2.4 million for a pair of bathrooms is a steal, according to the head of a local panel.

The budget for the bathroom plan at Louis Valentino, Jr. Park raised eyebrows among locals, but the administrator of the neighborhood’s Community Board 6 said the big price tag isn’t unusual for a city construction job.

“People who are unaccustomed to dealing with government capital projects are likely to experience sticker shock when it comes to the amount that these things cost,” district manager Craig Hammerman said.

The project calls for separate men’s and women’s facilities containing four toilets altogether. Part of why it will cost so much is that new, post-Hurricane-Sandy flood regulations require it to be built at least three feet off the ground, a parks department spokeswoman said.

“Although all of these elements add to the cost of construction, it is vital that we make these investments now in order to ensure the long-term resilience of our facilities in the event of severe weather,” rec rep Meghan Lalor said.

The original plan for the bathroom, presented in September, placed the bathroom smack in the middle of the park, angering Red Hookers who said it took up too much space, blocked the view of the harbor, and cost too much. The city went back to the drawing board and, though the budget remains the same, park designers won some neighbors over with new plans at an Oct. 9 meeting.

One of two new bathroom plans calls for the new structure to be placed in the corner of the park furthest from the end of Coffey Street, and to come with a shorter wheelchair ramp and sit closer to the ground, meaning it should end up costing less. A second plan shows the facility placed between the middle of the park and the corner.

One park lover said that no matter where it is placed, the toilet hut as designed is an out-of-place eyesore.

“This will be a postmodern droplet in the middle of a Civil War-era warehouse district,” said CJ Dallett.

But another resident in attendance said adding loos is crucial if the park is going to serve people who don’t live in holding-it distance.

“This park is a gem for the whole city,” said John McGettrick, a longtime Red Hook activist. “We owe it to them to share this unique space.”

The parks department has not yet released a timeline for the project, and designers plan to draw up one more set of plans before making a formal proposal to the community board’s parks committee.

Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), who called the meeting, told attendees that it is not too late to scrap the bathroom plan entirely, noting that it wouldn’t mean $2.4 million leaving Red Hook.

“Those are City Council dollars, and if we do decide to end this project, our money will stay here,” he said.

If the latrines get built as budgeted, the bill for them will only run a seventh of the $16.5 million Carmine Carro Fieldhouse in Marine Park, which cost more than three times the Freedom Tower per square foot and had to close shortly after opening because a city contractor installed a set of locks backward.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro‌witz@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz

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