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