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City flushes solution to Oceana toilet troubles

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There’s no relief in the Brighton Beach battle of the bathrooms.

The Parks Department says it will not use unspent state funds to relocate the elevated public restrooms being built in front of the Oceana condominiums.

The politicians who originally allocated the unused money had suggested that the languishing loot could cover the cost of moving the toilets away from the pricey residences, but the city sent the plan down the drain.

Five years ago, assemblymen Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) and Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) sent $10 million to the city for Boardwalk improvements, but since Parks has only used a quarter of the funds — and state officials say the city could redirect the unspent cash to move the high-rise comfort stations.

“We have been advised by Ways and Means in Albany that, since it is a Boardwalk project, money can be taken from those dollars to move the bathrooms,” said Cymbrowitz.

Instead, the city plans to use the money to rebuild the Boardwalk, according to a Parks spokeswoman. Work on the Boardwalk has been delayed by wrangling over whether the walkway should be redone in concrete or with the original, eponymous boards.

An Oceana resident organizer who has rallied opposition to the bathroom project agreed the Boardwalk needs fixing, but said the bathrooms still need to go.

“Of course Boardwalk needs repair — I can’t dispute that — but I would also like to see the solution to the bathrooms,” said Dmitry Geyber. “It’s a human tragedy for us that live in Oceana.”

A ground-level public restroom occupied the location until Hurricane Sandy destroyed the structure. The city is eligible for federal money to replace the comfort station, but only if it rebuilds in the same location and raises the structure 20 feet to protect from future flooding.

But, residents of the nearby Oceana Condominiums rose up against the lofty loos, saying the elevated lavatory would stink up the salt air, block their views of the water, and could even send debris flying at their homes during a future storm.

After the Oceana Homeowner’s Association brought suit against the city last year, a judge forced the Parks Department to conduct an environmental impact study, which ultimately determined the location was acceptable.

Meanwhile, Cymbrowitz floated the idea of moving the bathrooms west toward Coney Island Avenue, and the Parks Department proposed plopping the pooper in front of the Shorefront Y.

However, moving the project might preclude federal funding, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires the city re-build in the destroyed structure’s footprint — so a latrine lateral could leave the city holding the bill for the $6 million project.

But Cymbrowitz said the money he and Brook-Krasny allocated in 2009 could cover the cost.

Of the original $10 million, the city has spent $2.5 million on street-end plazas at Brighton 2nd and W. 33rd streets, a Parks spokeswoman said. Parks will use the remaining money to rebuild the Boardwalk between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street and is currently reviewing contractor bids for the project, she said.

But the boardwalk reconstruction is awash in its on controversy — which sparked a lawsuit from Boardwalk preservationists and opposition from politicians — that has been dragging out the project, Cymbrowitz said.

“That’s really what’s been holding up any use of the money,” he said.

The assemblyman said he has not staked out a position on whether the Boardwalk money should move the bathrooms, but he did say he didn’t want the money to fund converting the Boardwalk to concrete.

“If they’re going to use this for a concrete walk, I am not happy with that, and I would rather not use the money for that,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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