Letter: Bathroom Break

The two public restrooms at the foot of Main Street in Cold Spring, next to the tracks, are no longer able to serve the increasing number of visitors who use them, and they have been repeatedly vandalized. As you reported in the Dec. 8 issue, the village has closed them for the season. Those who argue that we should just make the closing permanent overlook the consequences, which will be unavoidable given the biology that we all share.

The restrooms are big without having much capacity — each serves one person at a time. They are often filthy, sometimes with no toilet paper, with dodgy plumbing and always dismal.

Vandals do their work out-of-sight, where the risk of discovery is low. So, to start, let’s make vandalizing the restroom seem like a risky idea, likely to be discovered and punished. We can do that by getting rid of lockable doors on one-stall restrooms. Instead, put two or three privacy stalls in each room (one for men, one for women) equipped with a washbasin and effective electric hand dryer (spend a few extra bucks for something that works and will be a pleasure to use, not a provocation). Make the outside doors not lockable from inside. Consider putting cameras outside the restrooms, filming everyone, with a sign giving notice that Big Mother is Watching.

Enlist the eyes of the community (visitors and residents) by giving everyone a reason to care. Keep the restrooms clean, well-stocked with toilet paper, well-painted and cheerful. Encourage local artists, perhaps talented teens from Haldane, to decorate the interior.

Adding stalls and improving these amenities turns the solution into a capital project, not a maintenance program or a policeman’s salary. That means that the village can seek grants and other funding not usually available to cover operating expenses. Adding stalls will boost badly needed capacity and, done right, will make the solution durable, making Cold Spring’s public restrooms a source of pride, not embarrassment.

Michael Armstrong, Cold Spring

One thought on “Letter: Bathroom Break

  1. Thanks for writing this very important letter. I sincerely hope that the Powers That Be read it and respond. Last I heard, the Chamber of Commerce was getting involved or at least trying to.

    Here’s the most important part of the story that nobody mentions and everyone forgets. Putnam County does not share sales tax with the towns or villages of the county. Due to an anomaly with Medicaid payments that are made and reimbursement for unpaid school taxes, sharing is never going to happen. Our elected representatives can showboat and grandstand all they want, but they should know the truth and stop getting up people’s hope for a windfall.

    Because the County does not directly share the money, it is required and supposed to be giving us services! Our taxes are not a one-way street — we are supposed to get something in return. In this case, the County should be paying for repairs and maintenance of the public restrooms. Mayor Merandy, the Board of Trustees and Legislator Scuccimarra are all derelict in their duty to the residents, business owners and taxpayers because they refuse to stand up for us at the Legislature where these financial decisions are made.

    The taxpayer-funded services that Cold Spring is entitled to receive include:

    Money to promote tourism and economic development. There are two agencies in Carmel that have highly paid directors who are supposed to be providing support for our Main Street businesses. Bruce Conklin is the head of the Visitors Bureau and Jill Varricchio is head of the Putnam County Development Corp. I have tried to work with both of these individuals to lobby for Cold Spring to no avail. In my estimation, their salaries are a complete waste of taxpayer money and the county would be better served to get private contractors to do these functions.

    The Tourism Booth at the foot of Main Street. This has been empty for months with no explanation from Mr. Conklin who refuses to answer my letters and phone calls. The booth used to be manned by a senior citizen volunteer but that is no longer the case and it was vacant during the height of the tourism season. This is another disgrace that must be dealt with before next spring when the next wave of tourism begins.

    Public restrooms: I find it incredible that this disgusting situation has been allowed to exist in a so called “civilized ” part of the world and the government officials responsible should be called out for their failure to provide this basic service. It is simply not fair to expect the private business owners to provide bathrooms for non-customers and something needs to be immediately to fix this.

    As the owner of a local plumbing business, I can tell you that the cost of repairs is much, much less than the income that is received from tourists spending their money here. In fact, I wish that the mayor or whoever is responsible would put this job out to bid so that local contractors could get the work. This is really a no-brainer. The problem could be solved within hours if anyone in charge had some common sense.