Opposition upends plan for porta-potty at Bridge Street dock

The plan to put a porta-potty at the town dock parking lot on Bridge Street looked like a sure thing a week ago but it got flushed down the drain on Tuesday.

“Every problem doesn’t have a solution,” declared Town Councilwoman Chris Lewis at the Town Board work session on Tuesday.

Ms. Lewis, who has been leading the town’s effort to meet Dory owner Jack Kiffer’s demand for a public bathroom in the area, went on to announce the plan was dead because Bridge Street businesspeople she did not identify opposed it.

At the end of a long debate over the issue Tuesday, Supervisor Jim Dougherty promised that the board would continue to seek consensus among Bridge Street businesspeople. He also said the town would look into Police Chief Jim Read’s suggestion that a good looking, landscaped shed be drawn to show that a potty might be housed at the park in a way that would be aesthetically acceptable.

But that promise came at the very end of a roundabout discussion touched off by Ms. Lewis’s surprise announcement.

There had been “an ongoing discussion and effort to accommodate” the need for a Bridge Street bathroom for a year and half, she said, but there had not been “a lot of direction” and few options had emerged. There had been “no takers” among businesspeople to provide a public toilet on their properties, Ms. Lewis said. Putting a porta-potty in Volunteer Park “was never a part of it” — even though Mr. Kiffer famously hauled a commode to the park property in 2009 and sat on it as part of his Bridge Street bathroom campaign. That performance, Ms. Lewis said, “cemented the position” that no toilet should be located in the park.

“Last week we had decided,” Ms. Lewis went on, to put a porta-potty in a far corner of the town dock parking area, which would mean the loss of one parking space. The Highway Department was going to secure it, protect it from vehicles with concrete barriers and remove it whenever bad storms were likely to flood the site. The porta-potty is here, “on a truck,” ready to be installed, Ms. Lewis said. “However,” Ms. Lewis went on, there had been a “spate of calls” from people opposed to the plan late last week. Some said they believe there wasn’t any need for the porta-potty and they didn’t want to lose one of the area’s few parking spots because of it, she said. They also complained that Mr. Kiffer, who had seemed satisfied with the plan, didn’t speak for them.

“I have it 3-to-1 against” the plan “so I guess we’re not going to have it there and no other place is available,” Ms. Lewis said.

Councilman Peter Reich commented that NIMBYism (as in Not In My Backyard) was a common trait on the Island.

Willette Hoffmann, a member of the Piccozzi family that has business operations on Bridge Street, was in the audience at the work session. She asked why a porta-potty could not be located in Volunteer Park.

“It’s a beautiful location,” Ms. Lewis replied, where the town holds concerts in the summer. “It’s not a place to put it.” One problem is someone “could throw it overboard” into Dering Harbor — a threat that board members said they had heard about placing a porta-potty at the town dock as well — and the town didn’t want to have to post a police officer there all summer to keep an eye on it.

The park was intended as a vest-pocket green space “to honor volunteers” and it was agreed “across the board” that a porta-potty would not go in the park, Ms. Lewis said.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who was on vacation as the porta-potty plans were finalized over the last two weeks, agreed with Ms. Lewis. “We’ve gotten tons of reaction,” he said — and not from “just you local business folks” — that putting a potty in the park would be considered “very inappropriate.” Councilman Ed Brown also said the park was not the right place for a potty.

But what about people who go to concerts in the park? Where are they supposed to go to the bathroom, asked Angelo Piccozzi from the audience.

An angry Jack Kiffer complained, “Nobody here has to live with what we have to live with down there” — a steady flow of people asking to use bathrooms meant only for patrons, he had claimed in the past. He said that “two isn’t a majority,” apparently referring to Bridge Street business opponents of the porta-potty plan.

Ms. Lewis interjected that one of them had told her if people asked to use the bathroom, “We let them.”

Councilman Brown asked Angelo Picozzi if he could “work that out.”

“We do already, Eddie,” he answered. He went on to say that Shelter Island was “the exception to the rule” among local towns because it does not provide a public bathroom, except for those at Wades Beach and Crescent Beach.

Speaking of the derailed plan, Councilman Paul Shepherd commented, “That’s sad. We decided it was a good idea” to have it at the town dock. Any decision will be opposed by somebody, he added. “Maybe we have to sit down and decide who we’re going to piss off.” He said it was “too bad” that a sudden burst of opposition had derailed the board’s agreement.

Chief Read’s suggestion that the town come up with a design for a shed seemed to settle the issue for the time being. With a good drawing, he said, maybe the “Bridge Street people could come up with a consensus on where to go.”

Supervisor Dougherty ended the discussion promising there would be a “two-pronged approach”: continuing talks with Bridge Street business owners and a rendering to show how a potty shed might look in the park.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board:

• Heard Legionnaire Matt Rohde and Gold Star mother Chrystyna Theinert Kestler speak in support of plans to extend the North Fork Wounded Warrior-Soldier Ride held over the Labor Day weekend to Shelter Island this year. Details will be reported in a future edition.

• Heard Supervisor Dougherty urge residents to attend the town’s Go Green Expo at the Youth Center on Saturday, May 19 to learn about local environmental initiatives. In addition, Superintendent of Highways Jay Card has secured a commercial shredder that will be in the parking lot for residents to get rid of their personal paper piles securely and for free.

• Heard reports on further steps that have been taken to present a Length of Service Award Plan (LOSAP) to voters to approve for the town’s new EMS department, formerly the Red Cross ambulance. The town is aiming to hold a required voter referendum on the plan in midsummer. Details will be reported when a plan is formally proposed.

[email protected]