NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Community leaders are slamming the New York City parks department for “unacceptable” delays in building a new bathroom at the St. Albans, Queens park that hosts rapper LL Cool J’s annual basketball program.
Kids flock to Daniel O’Connell Park, where they can play on a hot summer day but have to be cautious about drinking water. The public restroom has been closed for years. The only other option is a port-o-potty.
“It’s very disgusting, because the port-o-potty doesn’t have a sink for the kids to wash their hands. So they’re running around with all this bacterial and stuff on their hands,” resident Ben Jameson said.
“This park is used by a lot of people and it’s just disgraceful that we don’t have proper facilities,” said resident Carolyn DeVore.
“Everybody kind of expects things when it’s done by New York City government, it’s going to take the time it’s supposed to take times 10 years,” resident Jade Mitchell added.
Funding for the bathroom was approved in 2010, and construction started in 2015 but soon stopped. Councilman I. Daneek Miller told CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer the Department of Parks and Recreation dropped the ball and doesn’t care about his community.
“This is an attack on communities of color,” he said.
Comptroller Scott Stringer said what’s happening at the park is happening all over the city — the parks department is unable to get projects done on time and on budget.
“We’re looking at cost overruns. With 35 percent of the projects we audited, we’re looking at budgets that get bloated,” he said. “This basically is a procurement horror show.”
The O’Connell Park bathroom was originally supposed to cost $1.2 million. Now, the estimate is $3 million, Kramer reported.
The parks department told CBS2 it hopes to begin work in October and reopen the bathrooms next August, right before LL Cool J’s program starts.
“When the parks department says to you this comfort station is going to be completed in 2019, which is next year, do you believe them?” Kramer asked Miller.
“Absolutely not,” he replied.
What members of the community want to know is how many more summers have to pass before the Do Not Enter sign comes down on the bathroom.
A parks department spokesperson blamed the delay on a bad contractor, saying the department hopes to have a new one in place by the fall. The agency also insisted that speeding up the construction process is one of its top priorities.